It is exciting to see the proposed new e-justice system rules for South Africa. Obviously, this is not eDiscovery but is a major step towards it. The thinking appears to be a staggered approach whereby practitioners first get used to the technology before taking the next step of incorporating eDiscovery into the Rules.
That said, there are a number of aspects to the proposed new rules in which Insiox, as an experienced and international service provider can assist to ensure compliance. Our first thoughts as we read the proposals were that some of the required processes are identical to the requirements of certain regulatory bodies and international courts. For example, we have experience of providing data to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in the USA and they demand that these must be supplied in PDF format using hyperlinks where possible. The same applies to the Privy Council in the UK, some Competition Commissions such as the CMA in the UK and many others around the world, in which we have experience.
Looking at the proposed new rules we can see that from the outset of a case the support and assistance of an experienced service provider is invaluable. This is especially applicable where court bundles are particularly voluminous. Obviously, if the matter has electronic data then our eDiscovery technology is absolutely applicable, but we wish to focus here on the specific requirements set out in the new rules concerning the production of PDF’s for trial bundles, exhibits etc.
Every case will have documents which will be either in electronic or in paper form. If they are electronic then, as indicated, eDiscovery technology would deal with them as a matter of course and it is a simple matter of exporting the required documents as PDF’s for trial bundles in a production format. The system, with skilled technical assistance, will also export a list of the documents from which, using hyperlinks, the documents can be easily viewed individually.
But, what about paper documents because the proposed rules make it clear that all documents must be produced as PDF’s? Again, not a problem for Insiox with our global knowledge and experience of dealing with hard copy documents across the world. The documents need to be scanned to PDF using recognised legal scanning software and best practice processes to ensure best quality images and no missed pages. The same situation described above can be provided as far as a schedule or index is concerned with a hyperlink to each document for ease of use. This process if used correctly can also yield documents that have been through an OCR (Optical Character Recognition) process and are then searchable and more easily managed. At the same time these can be redacted for Personally Identifiable Information, something that is going to become more and more relevant and the preparation of legal bundles under our new Protection of Personal Information Act (POPIA).
The adoption of new processes and technology are bound to present challenges, none of which are insurmountable. We are positive that this is the beginning of a movement towards a broader adoption of e-Discovery rules, and we will be ensuring that we are continuously able to help our clients navigate this journey.