E-Discovery Update: Email Threading Cuts Costs, Reduces Production of Irrelevant, Potentially Privileged Documents

October 6, 2015

Email threading is becoming more and more prevalent in the world of e-discovery. It can be a valuable tool for cost-saving and efficiency in document review and production. Many parties are not familiar with or do not understand this technology. In a nutshell, it identifies the most recent strings of an email and excludes all the smaller pieces that make up that larger string. If an email branches off into a separate thread, then the technology will include that thread for review as well. However, if an email has an attachment and subsequent replies omit that attachment, then the original email with the attachment also would be included for review.

With this tool, parties can review fewer documents yet still produce the same amount of substantive content, while significantly saving costs. Instead of wasting time reviewing all the separate pieces of an email chain over and over again, attorneys can focus on the entire chain in one document, thereby getting the full picture of the conversation. This helps with consistency, as well, and lowers the margin for error.

Threading also can be a useful quality-control tool. For example, it can be used to review entire email threads to check for missed or inconsistent privilege calls. Similarly, it can increase accuracy in responsiveness decisions and issue tagging. Consistency is the name of the game, and threading is another way to achieve that goal.

There are benefits to both parties in agreeing to use email threading and producing only the most inclusive emails. There are fewer documents for the producing party to review initially, thereby identifying fewer documents for production. This leads to lower production costs. In turn, the receiving party does not have to review as many opposing-party documents and cannot complain about getting a “document dump.” Parties should consider discussing email threading at the inception of discovery, or at the Rule 26(f) conference.

In the near future, it is likely that email threading will be as much of an industry standard as global deduplication. For a more in-depth analysis, see the article “Threading is the New Global De-Duplication,” published in the August/September 2015 issue ofToday’s General Counsel .