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Early Case Assessment — Getting it Done.

Part Two:

ECA (Early Case Assessment) – Getting it Done

Now that I commented on the definition of early case assessment, I am ready to expand on the different aspects of ESI-related ECA: processing, substantive investigation and project management.

ECA vs. Full Discovery Review

When you think about it from a document review perspective, the principle differences between ECA and a full discovery review is that ECA needs to occur quickly and is geared towards finding relevant or interesting information, whereas full review typically takes place over a larger time frame and is geared towards determining which documents must be produced to an opposing party. Those key differences require that different protocols, and perhaps different review tools, are adopted for each type of review.

Whether it’s ECA or full discovery review, the structure of the team are the same – an organized, quality-focused team of attorneys supported by technology and led by expert project management. My client engagements have shown me that you need expertise in those three operational areas to successfully conduct ECA:

  1. Processing: The review team uses processing tools to extract information relating to data quantities and places documents in a reviewable format. This analysis provides detail on the initial data processing costs but is only an indicator of the major portion of the overall cost, the cost of attorney review of the data.
  2. Substantive Investigation: The review team conducts an early, rapid investigation into a document set to identify pertinent issues, communications, documents and players. Software can play a meaningful role, but the team’s success within this short time frame depends on its ability to understand and leverage the review tool’s features to mine the data.
  3. Project Management: Project management enables the team to attack the data with a cohesive plan to maximize the information learned within the compressed timeline and to establish an overall budget for the full review to follow.

Minimizing costs and risk requires a managed approach both to estimate overall ESI-related costs and to quickly glean key substantive information from the ESI. When the individual elements of ECA-support functions are skillfully coordinated, the true power of Early Case Assessment is unleashed.