SCANNING – Low Tech Highly Misunderstood

Our guest blogger today is Bob Sweat who has quite an impressive background in the litigation wars.  Today, Bob writes about scanning…..

SweatBob In paper collections you usually find documents in folders and some loose in between folders.  The pages are bound by various elements, such as staples, paper clips, binder clips and rubber bands.  In the normal course of business it is not uncommon to find “logical” documents bound together. These are known as “physical” documents.  It is standard practice for a service bureau, your in-house copy department or facility management vendor to scan the pages using the smallest binding element as a document boundary. A fax cover, a letter and a chart bound by a staple or paperclip will be scanned as one document.

 Your goal is to have logical documents. This is accomplished using a task known as Unitization. When done as a pre-scanning task, the binding elements are removed and slip-sheets are placed where a stand-alone document occurs. As a post-scanning task, logical document determination is still done by humans, but using computers which is faster since it is accomplished electronically.  We’ll make the process of unitization a matter of a future article since it is a large subject.

What else needs to be decided before scanning?


These three choices cover most of what you will need. The format depends on how you intend to use the images. Most of the popular retrieval software packages work best with TIF. Be sure to specify Group 4 (IV) TIF, as it is a highly compressed format that can be read by at least 98% of viewing software.

 Do not use TIF for color as the file will be huge. JPG (JPEG) works best for anything with color, especially photos. The next decision for TIF is whether you will want them in single page or multipage format. Be sure you check the software that you’ll be using for the correct format.

 PDF is popular these days and possibly required in government productions, however while it is great as a document transporter, it does not play well in some databases.

 DPI (dots per inch)

Be careful to specify 300 DPI as your standard. Many scanning shops (both in-house and outsourced) use 200 DPI as the scanner runs faster. Using 300 DPI creates a scan suitable for OCR and display at trial. Anything larger than 300 DPI will result in a larger file size and take longer to open and deal with in general. 300 DPI looks as good as most originals. 200 DPI looks more like copy that has degradation, which occurs when you make a copy from a copy, then a copy from that copy and so on.


Many standard scanners can handle legal and ledger sized pages, but larger than that is considered oversized and generally charged by the square foot. When scanning oversized there are a couple of options. You can scan size for size using an oversized scanner or scan the legend portion of maps or drawings (8.5 x 11) and put a note to see original. In that way you maintain the location where the original resided.


Color scanning is much more expensive than black & white. You may choose to scan all color in black & white. A good practice is to scan B&W for any color page that does not have meaning and scan in color anything where the colors are used to identify important information that would otherwise be lost, ex: colors are noted in a legend as representing something specific on the page, like a bar graph.


If there are post-its on the documents placed by your litigation team, you will want those removed for scanning and replaced after scanning. If the client placed the post-it on the page a good practice is to scan it once with the post-it in its original place and scanned again with it removed. If the post-it is not covering text, it is easy to scan only once with the post-it in place.  If the post-it is covering text and is not pointing to a specific reference on the page, it may be acceptable to move the post-it to an open area on the page and scan the page only once.


Typically you scan the tabs and folders. This would include only folders that have written information or labels on them. If you scan the folder information, it should be the first page of that group even though the folder label is last in order. This ensures the folder label information appears ahead of the documents contained within the folder. Be sure to exclude any page of a folder that is simply an identification of the folder number, style, manufacturer or distributor of the folder.


Many paper collections these days contain floppy disks, CDs and DVDs, even hard drives. A scanned image is usually made of the labeled side of the media to show where it was located in the collection. You also need to decide if you want a copy of media and whether or not it needs to be a forensic copy. 

 IMAGE ID:          

If you are scanning pages that have already been Bates numbered, be sure to make the image ID the same as the bates number. It will save you a lot of headaches down the line not having to cross-reference.


Decide whether you are going to burn a permanent unique number onto each image at this time. The collection may be scanned for a review first, where the images get an ID number, but the pages are left unbranded or unendorsed until production when you will add a Bates number.


Understanding what is involved in scanning will help you see how applying rules and standards can greatly improve outcomes. Rules based instructions will ensure tasks are accomplished in a consistent manner and help you get what you need, not just what you asked for.

An author of numerous articles, CLE webinars and seminars, Bob Sweat is best known for his down to earth explanations and approaches to complex matters. Bob holds a Paralegal Certificate in Civil Litigation with Computer Emphasis, a major in Business and minor in Economics, several certificates from specialized studies at Purdue University and has worked both as a Paralegal and Director of Paralegal Placements.

 Bob has over 20 years experience working with local and national firms on complex litigations, ediscovery and document management matters, especially as they relate to handling discovery documents, review and production. Bob is currently a Project Manager and Partner at Open Door Solutions, LLP, Dallas, Texas, a company he help found in Jan 2002.  He is a member of the Advisory Council for the Organization of Legal Professionals (OLP).  Email your questions and comments to: