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Top 6 Things Lawyers Need to Know About Metadata

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By Casey C. Sullivan, Esq. on April 27, 2016 12:57 PM

The NSA wants it, eDiscovery professionals are obsessed with it, and your files are secretly full of it. It's metadata, the data about data that's kept in most electronically stored information. And it's had a major impact on the legal field over the past several years.

So when it comes to metadata, you'll want to make sure you know your stuff. With that in mind, here are our top metadata explainers and tips, from the FindLaw archives.

1. What Is Metadata and How Can It Affect Your Case?

Let's start with the start. Just what are we talking about when we talk about metadata? It's the information embedded in computer files that describes the contents and context of a file, everything from where a photo was taken to when a document was last modified. Here's a quick beginner's guide.

2. eDiscovery: Do You Know Where Your Client's Data Is (or Where It's Been)?

In the legal sphere, metadata is having some of its biggest impacts in the discovery process. Here, we walk you through the basics of metadata and eDiscovery, from identification of electronically stored information, to preservation, to collection.

3. Lawyers and Metadata: Navigating an Ethical Minefield

Metadata also poses significant potential ethical issues for attorneys. For example, what happens if you inadvertently disclose privileged information through metadata? How can that information be detected and clawed back? The ABA and state bars are starting to deal with these questions head on. Here's a quick overview.

4. Social Media Oversharing Makes It Easier to Collect, Seize Assets

An executive, facing a million dollar judgment, claims that he is broke, while his children post Instagram photos from his yacht in the Bahamas. An employee claims a work injury has kept him bedridden for months, but an analysis of his Twitter metadata shows he was tweeting from the ski slopes. Such stories are becoming more common, as metadata shared, and overshared, on social media becomes an increasingly important litigation tool.

5. Make Sure Microsoft Word's 'Track Changes' Doesn't Ruin Your Case

Tracking changes to a document is invaluable when doing multiple edits, shared with other authors. But it can also become a disaster if you accidentally allow opposing parties access to your every change and correction. Here's how to get around track changes risks, part of which should include removing unwanted metadata from your docs.

6. 3 PDF Tips for Lawyers

Speaking of removing metadata, PDF's are great for that. When you convert a file to a PDF, much of its metadata can be removed in a few simple steps. And that's just one of the perks of PDFs. Others include easy document assembly, allowing you to combine many documents and document types into a single file, and secure documentation, helping you keep your files locked away for long-term storage.

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