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Nearly every electronic document contains "metadata," information that typically does not appear in the paper form of the document but that can be retrieved from electronic files. Metadata is often harmless and irrelevant, but in some cases, it can reveal much about the creation, alteration, and transmission of a document. Metadata, moreover, may contain privileged and confidential information. In some instances, electronic documents cannot be reviewed or used efficiently without metadata. Because modern businesses and law firms depend heavily on electronic communication, data management, and word processing, lawyers must learn to cope with metadata and its legal implications.

This Article outlines some of the most important practical steps lawyers can take to familiarize themselves with metadata, to recognize the potential risks involved, and to implement procedures aimed at minimizing such risks.