By Tim Rollins
We've talked about the value of early case assessment (ECA) on this blog more than once. But if you're just considering using ECA technology, or if you're not sure of the value of adding this step into your e-discovery process, the benefits are considerable enough that they bear mentioning again.
ECA lets you get to the heart of matters quicker, before collecting data, in the following ways:
- Understand the scope (and therefore the cost and time requirements) of e-discovery in a given legal matter
- Determine the key issues and legal liability
- Define case strategy according to the scope, issues, and liability involved
But like any other technology, it functions best--and provides the most value to you--when you follow some best practices before you get started on your ECA. What are they? The following five tips from Exterro's Beginner's Guide to Early Case Assessment are a great starting place.
- Implement a defensible deletion strategy. Since a big part of ECA involves proactive review of potentially relevant electronically stored information (ESI), it's easier to accomplish the less ESI that exists in the first place. If you have a defensible deletion strategy in place to reduce ROT (redundant, obsolete, and trivial data), you'll have less data to sort through. That means reduced cost and time involved.
- Involve IT early and often. One of the biggest benefits of ECA is the ability to set case strategy earlier--a task decidedly in the legal department's bailiwick. That said, IT still has a big role to play. Legal needs to understand the data environment (Where can I find what I need? How much ESI is there?), and that's 100% IT department territory.
- Develop strong preservation procedures. If you're not going to collect everything to preserve it (a practice that defeats the cost savings available through ECA), then you have to be confident that potentially relevant ESI is being preserved for collection and review later in the process. If you have holes in your preservation procedures, critical information could slip through, compromising the results of your ECA and potentially the outcome of the legal matter.
- Communicate and cooperate with opposing counsel. FRCP 26(f) "meet and confer" conferences provide a good opportunity to limit over-collections and subsequent cost overruns. Once you've got a sense of the ESI involved in a matter, meet with opposing counsel to discuss what it includes and what it doesn't; disclose any technological challenges; and get a sense where the other side may be willing to compromise.
- Collect in phases. Early collection efforts should focus on the most relevant items or ESI that's at risk of being lost. Pursue this low hanging fruit to avoid getting trapped in an unnecessary (and expensive) collect-everything approach.
Of course, sometimes you want more than a few best practices to help you get started. You want the steps spelled out for you--in a checklist. That's why Exterro recently created our E-Discovery Action Plan Checklist 3 Easy Steps to Saving Time and Money. Download it today to start implementing the steps that can save your legal team time and document review expenses!