Bates Numbering in the Legal Industry

Posted On February 21, 2012 By Scott Guercio

Bates numbering (also called Bates stamping) is used in the legal industry as a method to label and identify legal documents, for easy identification and retrieval. Nearly all American law firms use Bates numbering during the discovery phase of litigation, where a large number of documents need to be referenced and shared.

Bates numbering is named after Edwin G. Bates, who invented the Bates Automatic Numbering Machine in the late 19th century. Each time the Bates machine was pressed down onto a sheet of paper, a rotating, numbering, wheel was moved incrementally. The original Bates machine numbered in a four-digit sequence, ranging from 0000 to 9999. For example, page 178 of a document would be numbered as 0178. Courts and law firms quickly adopted this system.

Today, Bates numbering consists of assigning a unique identifier to each page of a document, which may be numeric, or it may contain a combination of letters and numbers (alphanumeric). No longer is a dedicated machine required, as multifunctional devices (MFDs) and software solutions can be used to properly mark both paper and digital images.

Here, at Advance, we offer hardware and software solutions. When dealing with copying paper documents, our Canon line of MFDs allow law firms to apply Bates numbering with customizable alphanumeric values, including leading zeros, and in several different positions on the page. This functionality is available on Canon’s smaller office devices through their production machines. Profiles can even be setup to quickly recall commonly used stamping conventions. We also offer Nuances’ eCopy solutions, which allow our clients to apply Bates numbers while scanning paper documents to electronic file formats, such as a PDF. For existing electronic files, Advance offers several Nuance Software products, such as, PDF Pro Office and Personal Paperless Document Manager, which can apply Bates numbering conventions, without even requiring the file to be opened. Further benefits include numbering several different documents sequentially in one easy step, and only numbering a specific page range of a document.

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