How to Add Bates Numbers to a PDF with eDiscovery Software

Posted by Alison ONeill | Tue, Jul 26, 2022

Bates Numbering is a feature that legal professionals and law firms welcome. Perhaps that’s because it’s mainly used in the field of law. Needless to say, legal documents can contain thousands of pages. But indexing those pages with Bates Numbers makes retrieving information from them for trial an effortless -or at least much simpler- task.

What is Bates Numbering?

Bates Numbering, also known as Bates Stamping, is an indexing method used for legal, business, and medical documents. In most cases, this applies to PDF files. Bates Numbers are perceived as digital reference points used to uniquely identify and label each page in a set of documents. By applying sequential numbering to PDF documents, you can make the task of organizing and identifying important documents a lot easier. For instance, a paralegal or other team member can instantly search the document and locate the page containing information a lawyer needs to reference during a deposition. Therefore, for obvious reasons, this method is a huge time and money saver for law firms of all sizes.

How does it work?

This method of stamping an original file is accomplished by assigning specific identifiers. These can be numeric or a combination of letters and numbers. For example, it could be something like the case ID numbers, dates, or company names added to each PDF page. By default, Bates Numbers are located in the header or footer of the pages and can include a prefix and or a suffix or you can assign it to be combined with the existing header and footer text.

The History of Bates Stamping

The Bates Numbering Machine -sometimes known as the Bates Stamper- was invented in the late 19th century by Edwin G. Bates. Mr. Bates had one clear objective in mind. He sought to simplify and increase the effectiveness of document identification and information retrieval. Back in the 1800s (and yes, also the 1900s and even early 2000s), this was a manual process. Each page had to be Bates stamped by hand using the stamper to index the page. Initially, with the stamper, this was done with a four-digit sequence (the "Bates number"). Fortunately, with the transition from paper to electronic documents, this manual method was phased out. Now, thanks to the rise of technology, documents can be “stamped” with various software. And as more communications and documents move to digital forms, law firms are using eDiscovery tools to help manage the massive amounts of data and electronically stored information (ESI).

Bates Numbering Your PDF files

If you need to add Bates numbers to a pdf file, you can do this within Adobe, as well. To index a PDF using Bates Numbers, all you need is a digital file and a PDF tool like Adobe Acrobat. Follow these steps to automatically add Bates Numbers to each page in the document set:

  • Open the file.
  • Click Tools.
  • Select Edit PDF.
  • Choose More.
  • Click Bates Numbering and Add.
  • Select Output Options to customize the serial numbers.
  • Click OK.

This applies Bates Numbering to each page in your PDF. Now you can organize and find documents on the fly. A benefit to completing this in Adobe is that as you add pages or rearrange the document, the Bates Numbers update automatically for you.

Disadvantages of Bates Numbering

It’s not surprising that a two-hundred-year-old analog numbering system falls a bit short in today’s digital world. Bates numbers were designed for printed pages that would be physically handed over to opposing counsel. But with eDiscovery, you’re often dealing with ‘native’ files for which ‘numbering’ can be quite fluid.


There are some disadvantages to how we apply Bates numbering, especially in common files like Word. For example, if you open a Word document on a new computer that doesn’t have the required fonts, it’ll apply new fonts and a formatting style. And this could very well change the amount of text on each page, which will alter the page numbers.


Similarly, Excel sheets aren’t in a document-style format, as each sheet will not always fit on a single page and the pages aren’t necessarily in a particular order. Thus, you’ll have to convert these sorts of files into an image format - for example, TIFF. Then you will need to stamp those images. Many attorneys do this. And while it can be effective -in that it works- it can also waste a lot of time and money.

Electronic Bates Stamping

Many legal applications require documents to have a sequential number, called a Bates stamp, printed in a specific location on each page. For hard copies pf documents, this requires the purchase of an expensive scanner that has a built-in printer, called an imprinter or endorser. This is used to print the number on the pages as they are scanned. However, if documents are being submitted electronically, the Bates stamp does not have to be physically printed on the page. Luckily, eDiscovery software, such as Digital WarRoom, has features to let you apply the Bates stamp to the images after they are scanned, saving you thousands on specialized scanning hardware. Electronic imprinting is also useful for anyone looking to apply a page numbering scheme, scan date, copyright notice, or any other text to document images as they are scanned.

What's the difference between "Pagination" and "Bates Stamping?"

In some software, similar terms are used interchangeably. But, specifically, pagination refers to either/both numbering pages in a document and/or dividing a large document into individual pages. Bates Numbering is a method of indexing legal documents for easy identification and reference.

Each page of each document is assigned a unique Bates number that also indicates its relationship to other Bates-numbered documents.

Most exchanges of documents in discovery will include a reference to which Bates numbers are the beginning of a document, the end of a document, and also references to Bates numbers of any attachments

Use Digital WarRoom to Add the Bates Number to Your Documents and PDFs

One of the benefits of eDiscovery tools such as Digital WarRoom is that management of the entire eDiscovery workflow is possible within a single tool. Digital WarRoom offers a range of production settings that go beyond just Bates numbering to help your team meet compliance with eDiscovery-related regulations. There are guardrails in place to prevent mistakes while also allowing a high level of customizability on your production deliverable.

Digital WarRoom ican also be used as a document review tool to apply marks and work product. Once document review is complete, you can move all documents with a produce-type mark over to a draft production. From there, go through QC steps to ensure your production contains only documents that should be produced.

You can select individual print settings for each document, such as produce in black and white versus color, or to produce as native versus imaged. An imaged document is a document that was converted from its native format to TIFF or PDF.

Next, you will determine the sequence order. This setting is very relevant to Bates numbering, as this specific sort will explain how the Bates numbers will be ordered and how the documents in your production will be sorted. Once sequencing is complete, start up an imaging job.

In DWR 10.0, we call this step "prepare production" as the tool will commit and apply all production settings to your documents. At this point, all documents will have been automatically assigned a page count and a Bates range. From here, you can click "endorse" to boot up another job.

Finally, all imaged documents will be stamped with an endorsement, which typically includes the Bates number. Unlike Adobe, which is limited to PDFs, Digital WarRoom allows users to export these productions in an industry-standard load file format which is commonly requested by the opposing party.


Digital WarRoom's eDiscovery tool offers superior features and functionality to ensure that you will be prepared for the entire Bates stamping and production workflow. We have other support resources available to ensure efficient business management of the document production process for your law firm. Reach out today for a demo to learn how DIgital WarRoom can help you!