Attorneys dealing with electronic discovery (e-discovery) often produce electronic documents with “load files.” But, what is a load file? In short, it is a file that helps load and organize information within e-discovery software so that the documents may be viewed, searched and filtered.
When ESI (electronically stored information) is produced with load files, information for each document is contained in multiple files. The first is an image file which is exactly as it sounds–an image of the document. Often the image files are produced in .tiff (tagged image file format), but when files are converted to .tiff, they lose information such as textual content and metadata. Because this data is lost, also lost is the ability to search for information contained in the document. So that the documents may be searched after being loaded into e-discovery software, additional files are created containing the metadata and document contents. The load file then ties all the information together within the software by connecting the image files to the right text and metadata files.
There are multiple types of load files (Concordance, Relativity, Summation to name a few) but generally, load files are just delimited text or CSV files. Because a specific type of load file may be desired (i.e. one that is compatible with a particular type of e-discovery software), lawyers should consider specifying the preferred load file type directly in document requests served on a litigation opponent or subpoena recipient.
Of note, however, is that load files are often unnecessary because many document review platforms now ingest documents in their native form. This is often preferable because the files do not have to be converted into image files and there is no data loss. This makes document review and search much more efficient because, among other things, it makes files easier to filter and sort.