Many e-discovery software products offer e-mail threading tools. But what is email threading? An email thread is the “chain” comprised of the original message, responses and forwarded messages. Email threading tools group related messages together for ease of review.
For instance, say you send an email invitation to a friend to lunch. The friend responds in the affirmative and suggests a restaurant. In turn, you reply with a confirming email. This is an email thread. Because emails create communication chains, many e-mail programs offer the option to display emails as threads, such as Gmail’s “Conversation View”:
The ability to view email threads is important in electronic discovery because it connects related messages that might not otherwise appear together. For instance, in the lunch invitation example above, if the recipient forwarded the invitation to another colleague, e-mail threading software would group the forwarded message with the original and its responses. This is sometimes referred to as “near-duplicate” detection. The forwarded email is nearly a duplicate of the original invitation except that it was sent to a different recipient.
In document reviews, connecting related emails and near-duplicate documents is helpful for several reasons. First, related messages may not be sequential in a document list or collection. As a result, not grouping related documents might create inefficiency because messages from a single conversation are reviewed piecemeal. With email threading tools, reviewers are able to identify and review the final email in a chain that contains the entire conversation rather than read each segment of exchange individually. Another benefit of email threading is that related messages may be assigned to a single attorney for review so there is less chance of inconsistent categorization and tagging of related documents. Finally, identifying email threads speeds review of similar documents because reviewers are able categorize an entire email chains en masse as being relevant, irrelevant or privileged. For instance, say a company’s outside counsel exchanges email messages with the CFO about pending litigation and after some back and forth, the CFO forwards the chain to the company president. If grouped together by an email threading tool, all of the emails may be marked privileged in one fell swoop rather than individually reviewing and tagging each document.
If you have questions about email threading capabilities found in e-discovery software or email threading in general, please contact us and we would be glad to discuss them with you.