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Bates Number

Unique page-level identifiers for legal documents.

A Bates Number is used to identify each page of a document used in legal proceedings. Parties stamp each page of every document used in litigation and in many other types of legal matters, including transactional legal matters, to ensure that all parties and the court may refer to the same page. The term is a historical use of the original automatic page numbering device invented by Edwin G. Bates in the early 1900s but in modern times is printed electronically. Sometimes the action of numbering pages in a legal document is called “Bates Numbering” or “Bates Stamping” or more commonly these days, simply as “page branding”. Bates Numbers are typically a combination of alphanumeric characters with a schema that signify something relevant to the parties.

How do Bates Numbers relate to eDiscovery?

In eDiscovery, Bates Numbers are used at different phases of the discovery process and typically will change between those used for internal review and those used when documents are prepared for production to the opposing party. The characters used also tend to signify additional elements of a document such as the original custodian from whom the document was collected or to which it is associated, a specific case or issue or to designate the document as being part of a specific set (such as pages belonging to privileged documents).

A typical Bates Number may follow a pattern such as: PARTYNAME-CUSTNAME-DOCTYPE-PAGENUM or as an example, XYZCORP-JONES-PRIV-000487. Bates Numbers are typically printed in the footer of a page, either on the far right or left. There are no specific rules for Bated Numbering in eDiscovery but certain standards are followed and parties may agree to specifics such as the form and schema of a Bates Number to be used in a case.