Bates Stamp: No, We’re Not Talking about Norman Bates

Electronic Bates stamp, or Bates number. The phrase is ubiquitous to legalese, but what is it really? And how does the legal field use it?

A Bates stamp uniquely identifies document pages with sequential numbers or numerical markings. The system is used by the legal field – and in business and medicine – to place identifying numbers, dates or other marks on images and documents as they are processed. These unique stamps set each document apart, allowing them to be clearly identified by all parties involved in litigation.

In other words, the Bates stamp organizes and identifies pages within a document. It helps legal teams distinguish business receipts, identify emails and sort documents during the discovery stage of preparations for a trial, etc.

Here’s how Bates stamp fits into the legal process: 1) law firm receives a group of docs from a witness, client or opposing counsel; 2) a clean copy of the docs is made; 3) documents get an identifying mark; and 4) copies of these docs are made when needed, such as production for other parties involved in the case.

So where’d they get the name? Bates is a registered trademark, like BandAid or Velcro. Although most stamps are now digitally created, the word “stamp” dates back to the days when the identifying marks were manually stamped onto documents by the Bates Stamp Machine Company. These days, you’ll find more $2 bills than manual Bates stamps. And scanners are to thank.

Litigation teams usually scan documents into digital form and then digitally apply a Bates stamp, with less hassle and errors. Welcome to the electronic discovery solution Bates stamp. There are a few ways to do this.

Some solutions use Bates stamp as an overlay. Other solutions do so in a footer.  The difference has to do with how the identifying mark is put on the page. An overlay goes in the same location of each and every page and can actually obscure text. The footer option assures that no text is covered and that the document will be legible each and every time a stamp is applied.  The footer-style Bates stamp entails shrinking the page by a very small percentage (Breeze ediscovery technology shrinks the document by 2%).  The shrinking of the document keeps all the data integrity and is an acceptable form.

Here’s an example below: 

 

Bates Stamp

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