A key phase in eDiscovery is Early Case Assessment (ECA), the process of reviewing case data and evidence to estimate risk, cost and time requirements, and to set the appropriate go-forward strategy to prosecute or defend a legal case – should you fight the case or settle as soon as possible. Early case assessment can be expensive and time consuming and because of the time involved, may not leave you with enough time to properly review evidence and create case strategy. Organizations are continuously looking for ways to move into the early case assessment process as quickly as possible, with the most accurate data, while spending the least amount of money.
The early case assessment process usually involves the following steps:
- Determine what the case is about, who in your organization could be involved, and the timeframe in question.
- Determine where potentially relevant information could be residing – storage locations.
- Place a broad litigation hold on all potentially responsive information.
- Collect and protect all potentially relevant information.
- Review all potentially relevant information.
- Perform a risk-benefit analysis on reviewed information.
- Develop a go-forward strategy.
Every year organizations continue to amass huge amounts of electronically stored information (ESI), primarily because few of them have systematic processes to actually dispose of electronic information – it is just too easy for custodians to hit the “save” button and forget about it. This ever-growing mass of electronic information means effective early case assessment cannot be a strictly manual process anymore. Software applications that can find, cull down and prioritize responsive electronic documents quickly must be utilized to give the defense time to actually devise a case strategy.
Total Time & Cost to ECA (TT&C to ECA)
The real measure of effective ECA is the total time and cost consumed to get to the point of being able to create a go-forward strategy; total time & cost to ECA.
The most time consuming and costly steps are the collection and review of all potentially relevant information (steps 4 and 5 above) to determine case strategy. This is due to the fact that to really make the most informed decision on strategy, all responsive information should be reviewed to determine case direction and how.
Predictive Coding for lower TT&C to ECA
Predictive Coding is a process that combines people, technology and workflow to find, prioritize and tag key relevant documents quickly, irrespective of keyword to speed the evidence review process while reducing costs. Due to its documented accuracy and efficiency gains, Predictive Coding is transforming how Early Case Assessment (ECA), analysis and document review are done.
The same predictive coding process used in document review can be used effectively for finding responsive documents for early case assessment quickly and at a much lower cost than traditional methods.
Figure 1: The time & cost to ECA timeline graphically shows what additional time can mean in the eDiscovery process
Besides the sizable reduction in cost, using predictive coding for ECA gives you more time to actually create case strategy using the most relevant information. Many organizations find themselves with little or no time to actually create case strategy before trail because of the time consumed just reviewing documents. Having the complete set of relevant documents sooner in the process will give you the most relevant data and the greatest amount of time to actually use it effectively.