In today’s digital world, document coding is an important skill. It can help you organize and make the most of your documents. Knowing how to code a document properly will save you time and resources in the long run. This article provides basic instructions on how we code your records correctly. It covers topics such as categorizing documents, creating unique codes, and organizing files into folders. With these simple steps, anyone can learn how to effectively code their records for efficient organization.

What to Code:

To determine the best-coded information for a client, one must take into consideration three (3) issues: 

  1. What’s the absolute most a client would want to have in a perfect world; 
  2. What’s the time frame in which the project must be completed; and 
  3. What’s the client’s budget? 

Where these three issues converge is the “best value.” 

Unless you have a client with an unlimited budget and an open time frame, sometimes even the best value may not be enough, and compromises must be made. It is up to you to consult with the client to determine which compromises are detrimental to the project’s overall success and to bring forth solutions that will enhance what they can purchase and give the best value for their investment. 

How much to code? 

Things to consider include the following:
How well do the documents lend themselves to OCR? If you can rely on OCR, then keywords and issues will not need to be coded. However, if the documents do not give a high OCR return, you must enhance the number of coded fields and content.

Likewise, it is essential to know the number of documents within the set (at completion, not just the first run, do not forget about opposing and co-counsels documents and subsequent productions.) The higher the number of documents, the higher the number of fields and the higher the detail of the content within the field.

For example: If the document count is very low and the OCR return is high, then a few choice fields such as document type, date, and title will be optimum. As the document count accelerates or the OCR return reduces, you must be more aggressive in the coded information. However, be smart. If the document count of all the parties in litigation is high, but if you can add intelligence to the documents to create subsets by implementing the field “source” or “produced by” then by all means, do so.

What is the case about? Who will be searching for documents, and how will they perform those searches? To create the best possible database, you must start at the end. Ask the case coordinator, “The evening before deposition or trial, what will be important to you? What will you need to be able to find, and how will you find it?” What words are key? What types of documents are critical – get specific, not just “report” but “safety reports.” If you have 200,000 documents and 70% are reports, there needs to be a way to find all safety reports without looking at 140,000 documents. Perhaps this search can be enhanced by coding the “title” field “Safety report on chemical exposures.”

What is entered in each field?

Once you have determined which fields will be coded, the detailed work begins. At this point, you will need to examine each field thoroughly. A date is date is a date. That is not true; ask any calendar, fruit, or girlfriend. To determine the “date” field, you must first know the “document type” categories. Then you will address the date for each document type and the various documents within that document type. For many document types, the correct answer will be the date the document was created; however, there are exceptions to every rule. What is the valid date for a contract? What if multiple parties have executed the contract on multiple dates? Do you use the earliest or the latest date of all the signatures? What if no one has yet executed the contract? Here you must rely on your experience with documents or bring out questions for the client to consider and answer. “What if…” will become your most common question.

How is it entered?

Once you know how much and what is to be entered, the next step is how it is entered. Some examples are: All Upper case? Please note that unless the client is confident all of the end applications (including those used by the co-counsel, your client’s client, or possible conversion at a later date) are not case-sensitive, then some adjustments may need to be allowed. 

What punctuation, if any, is allowed? Before ruling out the “-“does the bates number contain a hyphen? Does it always have a hyphen (even on the documents missed on the first bates numbering round, and later labels were typed and placed on the page)? Do they want a comma after the last name and before the first name? Do they want the name to be first name, last name (not recommended)? Will the comma cause import/export issues as field delimiters? 

Do not be afraid to develop a working relationship with the client and respectfully inquire why they want to do something a particular way. 

Here are specific questions for certain fields and find out the correct entry/action: 

  1. What is the End Application so that the image format and coded file format can be determined? 
  2. Bates Number: Are the pages: a. Bates Numbered 
  3. b. Are they sequential
  4.  c. Are there any missing bates (Is this a pick and choose?) d. Are there any duplicates
  5.  e. How many prefixes are they, and what are they 
  6. Are there different formats within the same prefix (Sometimes there is a hyphen, sometimes a space, sometimes neither) 
  7. If there are differences, does the client want this standardized or precisely what is on the page? 
  8. Document Type:
    1. What is the doc-type list? 
    2. Are certain documents critical to the case, and are they easily identifiable through a specific document type? 
    3. You would not want your case-specific documents placed in a broad category. 
    4. Can you obtain samples of any document types other than the general basic doc types? 
  9. Date:
    1. What format? mm/dd/yyyy or mm/dd/yy 
  10. What is the filler Ex. The document is from May 2022. What placeholder for the day? Usually, it is either “00” or “xx” 
  11. Author/Recipient/CC (“People” fields) 
  12. What format for names? 
  13. i. Last, First ii. Last-First 
  14. iii. Last – First
    1. iv. Other 
  15. What punctuation to use for multiple entries: 
  16. i. Semicolon space
  17. ii. Semicolon no space
    1. iii. Other 
  18. Company – With or without corporate designation (LLC, INC, CO etc) – 
  19. Are there multiple same-name companies and only the designation
    1. Identifies the correct corporate entry. 
    2. Association – Is there a need to associate the person with the organization? 
  20. Title
    • Are there any specific documents where there is not a particular title written on the document, but the title is given: (Other than the obvious to someone who has never worked this particular case, the client must provide examples, and we can accommodate)
      1. Check 
      2. Timesheet 
      3. Other 
  21. Overall: 
  • Filler
  • Restricted characters 


In conclusion, document coding is a necessary process that helps organizations organize and access their data more efficiently. With the instructions in this article, you should now understand how Precise Legal will code your documents. Utilizing the basic guidelines outlined in this article ensures that your documents are categorized correctly and quickly accessible for future reference. Additionally, properly coding your documents allows you to simplify searching for specific information and ensure that no critical data gets left behind.