Legal Translation for Multilingual E-Discovery

Multilingual eDiscovery Translation Services

We’ve blogged about the need for professional legal translation services during foreign language document review and the importance of accurate legal translations of discovery interrogatories. In the digital age, our electronic footprints are everywhere. We use social media, such as Facebook and Twitter. We send emails. We purchase books, movies and wall art paintings online. Our browser tracks our website history. Needless to say, this has changed the nature of discovery for attorneys. Discovery is no longer limited to depositions, business correspondence on letterhead and contracts in a file. Discovery in the digital age involves searching a large part of the digital landscape.

The Rules of Discovery in the Digital Context

The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure establish the rules and regulations for electronic discovery. The court allows parties in a case to balance the need for information with the cost and burden associated with electronic discovery. Most rules on discovery were developed at the turn of the century when manual typewriters and U.S. mail were the primary method of correspondence. Documents were stored in desks, metal filing cabinets or cardboard boxes.

In 1970, seeing that the legal profession needed some direction at the dawn of the Digital Age, the Supreme Court modified the rules of discovery. The court ruled that: “The inclusive description of ‘documents’ is revised to accord with changing technology. It makes clear that (the rule) applies to electronic data compilations from which information can be obtained only with the use of (these) devices …”

The court ruled that the same weight and authority given to print discovery also applies to electronic items. Electronic discovery could include spreadsheets, emails, computer backup files and word processing files. The rules were updated in 2006, adding a new word used by the American legal community – electronically stored information or ESI.

Since the rules were put into place just a few years ago, the reach and importance of technology has increased 100-fold. Smartphones and laptops are common devices for any successful business. People transmit documents between coworkers and clients daily. Cloud-based computers have given businesses the ability to store terabytes of information.

And all this information has the potential to become part of a court case during the discovery process.

The Vast Sea of Multilingual Digital Discovery

While electronic discovery increased the vastness of discovery documents, it has also increased the complexity. A company with 500 employees could generate thousands of emails in a day. When other computer documents are added, the vast amount of documents is massive.

Dealing with foreign language documents increases this complexity. We live in international world, and businesses have clients overseas or have operations in other countries. Often, these documents are created in foreign languages. In order to use these foreign language documents in court, a professional foreign language translation company specializing in legal documents must be hired to translate the documents into English before being submitted to the court.

What About Metadata?

Often a civil case will revolve around disagreements over what documents are required under the ESI rules. A common point of contention is metadata. This is information associated with electronic documents, like the time and place where the electronic file was created.

Metadata has brought the use of keyword searches into the legal community, and many attorneys will argue that the metadata is more important than the actual document itself. It allows a timeline to be established and a case to be built. Professional database consultants can be hired to search the massive amounts of correspondence and financial data associated with a particular word or groups of information, like a financial amount linked to a certain business.

But the true scope of metadata access in discovery is still an active area of the law. A federal judge recently ruled in a Freedom of Information Act case that public servants do not have the technical ability to conduct sophisticated database searches that are required for some records requests. The case has the potential to be cited when parties disagree over the scope of electronic discovery.

But in the end, discovery always comes down to language. Professional foreign language legal translators are needed to translate foreign language documents that are found during the ediscovery process.

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