Early Case Assessment (ECA)

Early Case Assessment (ECA) refers to a step in the eDiscovery process that can be used to estimate the risks involved in a legal matter by initially evaluating the electronically stored information. Unlike some other eDiscovery processes like collection, review, and preservation, ECA is more dynamic. There is a multitude of strategies and approaches that can change depending on the case.

The effectiveness of your ECA will depend on the technology and efforts you devote to it. It is imperative to understand the case’s scope and determine the course of action in order to ensure the success of the eDiscovery program. With case analysis software designed for legal teams, like Casepoint, you can ensure that your ECA process is more efficient. CaseAssist AI technology helps ensure that your legal discovery expenses are reduced while facilitating faster collection and processing of data.

Before we discuss the functionalities of Early Case Assessment software, let’s get an understanding of what ECA is and how it works.

What is Early Case Assessment or ECA?

Early Case Assessment is the process of collecting, reviewing, and analyzing data pertaining to a potential or pending litigation so that the legal team can make informed decisions about the course of action. The ECA should be initiated immediately after the trigger event occurs, which is an indication of a potential lawsuit.

The ECA is an iterative process which means that you need to repeat the actions until you get a complete picture. The potentially collectible ESI needs to be defined during the process of an internal litigation hold or preservation directive. This data usually falls into the category of individual employee files, enterprise databases, department files, and backup media.

You can customize the ECA process based on your specific needs. You need to define how early and rapidly you want the assessment process to take place, what constitutes the matter, what ESI must be reviewed, and what outcomes are applicable. It is important to note that ECA isn’t only for litigation, but for an internal investigation or a regulatory compliance inquiry as well.

Early Case Assessment- Software & Tools

With Casepoint’s eDiscovery solution, you can identify relevant documents during ECA and reduce your review burden. This case analysis software uses advanced analytics that is developed using different artificial intelligence tools. Using bulk coding capabilities and the review batch workflow, you can efficiently review your collection. You can track the progress of document review through Casepoint’s reporting tools. If you are new to early case assessment, here are a few tips to help you get started:

Section Image

Start the ECA with your smallest scope of data. Increase the scope as necessary.

Section Image

Stay away from any approaches that require duplication of efforts, especially if the scope is expanded.

Section Image

Start with a few custodians and add more later.

Benefits and Risks Involved

In order to protect your company, you need to be prepared. This involves assessing the benefits and risks involved in a trial. When you have that information, you can forecast, lower the costs of litigation, reduce the volume of ESI needed to be processed and reviewed, and reduce the resources and time spent on cases that should be settled before trial.

The Process of ECA

Determining that the case is big and will involve a lot of custodians and data doesn’t cost much or take a lot of effort. In fact, most lawyers only need to take a look at the basic facts to make that assessment. However, with an ECA process in place, you can add real data and figures to those projections and get a clearer picture. When you have precise estimates, you can set the litigation course confidently. But, how do you do that exactly? Take a look at the following to get an idea of what goes into an effective ECA:

Section Image

This includes direct communication with custodians (employees who have potentially relevant ESI) in order to understand the scope of the matter. By conducting these interviews, you will get an idea of who is involved in the potential legal matter, how much data is involved, where it is stored, and whether there is some ESI that can change the course of the litigation. Custodian interviews won’t get you any hard data but it is a great starting point that leads to a detailed analysis.

Custodian Interviews

Section Image

Data analytics are a major component of ECA as they transform raw data into useful information. Making your legal team go through thousands of documents to formulate your case strategy is a waste of time and resources. Instead, what you can do is use software like Casepoint that offers data analysis. With this, you will automatically have reports capturing data volumes, key concepts, email domains, date ranges, custodian names, etc. Analytics offers answers to quantitative as well as qualitative questions. Counsel can use this to find the best course of action.

Data Analytics

Section Image

Data sampling is another way to analyze large datasets. This process involves assuming that examining a subset of documents will help draw accurate conclusions regarding the entire data population. When it comes to eDiscovery, this involves examining a set of documents to determine the number of relevant documents existing in the data corpus. There are some details regarding accurate data sampling such as sample sizes, margins of error, and confidence levels, but it is an effective eDiscovery tool.

Data Sampling

Section Image

Reports can help make sense of everything. With them, it will be easier for you and your stakeholders to digest actionable information and key figures. For example, a report may reveal that the burdens and costs of eDiscovery software far outweigh the case’s monetary value. This might not be determined while looking at the data at a granular level. Also, reports are export-friendly and easy to share. Apart from this, they also offer a record for review and analysis.


Early Case Assessment Software

With Early Case Assessment software, you will have an analysis framework and a platform to understand the dataset, meet obligations, act on the information, and create a strategy for the case. You will need functionality like the ability to search keywords, filter metadata of files, cull down data, organize data quickly, and analyze through reports and data visualization.

After you have gone through all the stages of the ECA, you will have the foundation to determine the potentially relevant data sources. Depending on the volume of data in a collection, it is worth considering using an eDiscovery software tool like Casepoint that gives you access to a wide range of functionalities. It will help you get clarity regarding your discovery’s scope. With Case Summary, an analysis and management tool, you can manage critical information and build your case strategy. It also allows you to organize information related to the litigation process and track it.

Before you invest in eDiscovery software, you need to look for systems that support the early case assessment process and more. You should look for the following features:

  • Automatic Deduplication
  • Creation, Management, and Reporting of Custodian Questionnaires
  • Searching Capabilities
  • Data Processing and Exception Reporting
  • Detailed Reporting
  • Ability to Add Newly Collected Data Seamlessly

ECA Tools

Section Image

In order to conduct custodian interviews, your legal team could use email for sending questionnaires or spreadsheets and record their responses. They might also rely on online survey applications available for free. However, none of this is an ideal solution. If you are using a generic survey application, you will have to deal with a restrictive design. Also, you won’t be able to have automated follow-up communications like reminder emails, which are important to achieve the desired response rate. You might also have to transfer the interview responses manually into a format that can be accessed and compared alongside other responses.

Instead, what you can do is use a dedicated application that comes with built-in workflows to make sure that all the steps are performed in an automated, logical sequence. The legal teams will be able to collect information quickly and act on it.

Automated Interview Management Systems

Section Image

Pre-collection analytics tools aren’t as common as some other eDiscovery tools. However, they can access your data sources and deliver insights like document volumes. They can also perform advanced filtering and searching to identify relevant content.

Pre-collection Analytics

Section Image

Many believe that this cutting-edge technology is strictly to be used for eDiscovery document review. However, the truth is that predictive analytics can be used for ECA as well. Instead of relying on specific methodologies to search, machine-learning technologies can apply advanced algorithms and categorize responsive documents. The artificial intelligence in eDiscovery software learns what is considered to be a responsive and non-responsive document and applies that to the document set.

Artificial Intelligence

Benefits of ECA Tools

Section Image

With early case assessment tools, you will have the power to understand your case better early on in the process . This will help you create a course of action for the case effectively and determine the scope of work that needs to be done. Having the right insights during the case assessment will ensure that you have more control over the eDiscovery process. These insights also shed light on risks that were previously unanticipated.

A core function of the ECA is risk evaluation, allowing you to make better decisions at the early stages of the litigation. Cost is part of the risk that is being evaluated. A good ECA tool will ensure that you know exactly what you are up against. This includes knowing the volume of data, its types, time frames, etc. It will allow you to judge whether you have the technological capabilities and financial resources to review the content effectively

Reduced Risk

Section Image

If you are able to cull the data early on, you will be able to reduce the ESI volume pushed for document review. Using an ECA tool will allow you to identify junk mail, detect duplicate documents, and locate unrelated content easily. You won’t have to send a huge volume of data to review which will cut the review costs. In order to cull, ECA tools help you to develop criteria like search terms to locate key documents and potential pertinent data for the legal matter. It will also provide you with a broad overview of the data so that you can predict how much work will be required for the review. This will save you a lot of time and effort.

Reduce the Content Volume Promoted to Review

We hope that this article helped you understand what ECA is and how it can benefit your company or law firm. By using an eDiscovery platform like Casepoint, you can create a discovery plan and find patterns during a quick review. Casepoint aims to reduce the ESI scope in early case assessment. It helps prevent the weaponization of eDiscovery, allows you to spend fewer hours reviewing the data, and makes sure that you or your client don’t have an unreasonably large bill for eDiscovery.