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Top 10 eDiscovery Best Practices for Handling Metadata

By Kevin Fayle | Last updated on
Guidance Software has released its top ten best practices for dealing with metadata during eDiscovery.  Metadata is a hidden threat when releasing electronically stored information to an opposing party.  It lurks under the surface of documents, can reveal things that attorneys would prefer to keep under wraps, and often undermines trial strategies or worse.  Check out this list for ways to avoid the pitfalls associated with metadata: PASADENA, Calif. (April 20, 2009) - Guidance Software Inc. (NASDAQ:GUID), the World Leader in Digital Investigations™, today announced the Top 10 eDiscovery Best Practices for Handling Metadata to help corporate counsel better understand the importance of metadata, how to preserve and maintain it, and the need to address it early on in litigation.
With the recent decisions such as Aguilar v. Immigration & Customs Enforcement Division of the U.S Dept of Homeland Security and Bray & Gillespie Management LLC, v. Lexington Insurance Company, the proper handling of metadata is becoming increasingly important. The metadata best practices listed below were compiled from industry experience, recent relevant cases, and a review of suggestions from the Sedona Principles and the Sedona Guidelines.
"This past year brought a great deal of attention to the subject of metadata, but many lawyers are unclear on what metadata is or how to handle metadata issues. This list provides suggested best practices from the very beginning of a litigation through production," said Patrick Zeller, Vice President and Deputy General Counsel for Guidance Software.

Top 10 eDiscovery Best Practices for Handling Metadata:

  1. Assess your document retention practices as they pertain to metadata.
  2. Impose a litigation hold that preserves all potentially relevant electronically stored information (ESI), including metadata (whether or not you think metadata is likely to be requested in discovery targets).
  3. Discuss the kinds of metadata that are associated with potentially relevant ESI and devise a protocol to propose to litigation adversaries.
  4. Be prepared to testify about the scope of your ESI resources, and the methods you used to preserve, collect, and produce ESI, including metadata.
  5. At the Rule 26 meet-and-confer conference or before:  Disclose your intentions regarding ESI, including metadata specifically (both with respect to propounding and responding to discovery).
  6. If you think metadata might be relevant and/or useful to your case, request it as early as possible.
  7. In your role as discovery respondent, implement systems to ensure that your discovery protocols are being followed.
  8. Develop a defensible evidentiary record that demonstrates your adherence to the discovery protocols you disclosed as a standard operating procedure.
  9. Be prepared to authenticate (challenge/defend the authenticity of) ESI, including metadata that you intend to offer as evidence at trial or in support of dispositive motions.
  10. Practice aggressive transparency to avoid issues of spoliation and to make sure everyone understands what metadata will be preserved, how it will be preserved, and how it will be produced.
"Most eDiscovery solutions fail to properly preserve metadata.  As a result, organizations risk significant legal exposure by producing ESI with compromised metadata, or incur substantial increased cost by engaging in a time consuming, manual processing effort to reset the file metadata to its original pre-collection state," said Zeller.  "The Aguilar and Bray decisions underscore the importance of using the right technology for the preservation of metadata throughout the eDiscovery process."

To better understand the latest on metadata requirements and recent case law, including how they apply to ESI, view "The Growing Importance of Metadata Preservation in eDiscovery" - a webinar that expands upon the Top 10 eDiscovery Best Practices for Handling Metadata noted above.

About Guidance Software (GUID)
Guidance Software is recognized worldwide as the industry leader in digital investigative solutions. Its EnCase(r) platform provides the foundation for government, corporate and law enforcement organizations to conduct thorough, network-enabled, and court-validated computer investigations of any kind, such as responding to eDiscovery requests, conducting internal investigations, responding to regulatory inquiries or performing data and compliance auditing - all while maintaining the integrity of the data. There are more than 30,000 licensed users of the EnCase technology worldwide, and thousands attend Guidance Software's renowned training programs annually. Validated by numerous courts, corporate legal departments, government agencies and law enforcement organizations worldwide, EnCase has been honored with industry awards and recognition from eWEEK, SC Magazine, Network Computing, and the Socha-Gelbmann survey. For more information about Guidance Software, visit
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