3 Software Must-Haves for Effective Early Case Assessment (ECA)

With the proper eDiscovery tools, facts can be balanced with risk factors to determine the best course of legal action.

onediscoveryblogWhile experienced attorneys usually have a sense of the scope and cost of a given case based on the facts, early case assessment is where you dig into the true context of the case to either confirm your instincts or spot red flags buried in the data. This is where you get your first glimpse at the usability of your corpus and your bottom line starts to form. The outcome of this preliminary process will inform the parameters of your eDiscovery efforts – and could impact your decision to ultimately proceed to trial or pursue an early settlement.

Needless to say, the accuracy of these judgments is critical to your success. When searching for an eDiscovery platform, look for these three capabilities to ensure precision in the ECA process.

1. An Integrated Platform

Once litigation is imminent, the custodian interview is conducted and attorneys obtain background information, including key issues, dates, order of events, and important documents. All this, in turn, can be used to identify how many documents have relevancy. The way you “slice and dice” the corpus is going to largely depend on case specifics and will vary from case to case, making an eDiscovery platform with an integrated workflow essential. Several platforms offer bolt-on ECA components, which can lead to inefficient information handoffs between technologies. With an integrated workflow in place, you can rapidly modify filters such as keywords and dates to quickly target your most relevant documents – and then seamlessly flow into review and production.

2. Sophisticated Reporting

No matter how sophisticated the mechanisms behind your eDiscovery platform, they won’t be of much service to you if you can’t pull back the curtain to see the specifics of what is being processed. This is where reporting and visualizations come in. Leading reporting technologies allow you to upload a list of keyword search terms and phrases to see the number of resulting documents for each phrase. The number of hits is presented along with context to the total number of combined search results and the total number of records in your universe. And exceptional eDiscovery reports allow you to break search results out by custodian, identify superfluous domains, and add charts and other visualization tools. With the ability to quickly and easily run detailed reports, you have the power to assess results in-process and confirm the value of your filters every step of the way.

3. Advanced Analytics

There are some filters that are the bread and butter of early case assessment, but the algorithms powering your eDiscovery platform should help you to mine for deeper insights in your corpus of data. This includes running keyword filters in conjunction with conceptually similar term searches to broaden keywords and performing conceptual clustering – an unsupervised organization of records based on their prevailing concept. Additional tools can be leveraged, such as metadata clustering, allowing you to group records by date, domain, type, or other data points to eliminate non-responsive documents through broad strokes. These advanced tools can help you connect the dots on relationships between records that might not be apparent through basic filters alone.

A Word to the Wise

When working with sophisticated technologies, it can be tempting to “trust the system” and take results at face value. Instead, leverage the results to get a better understanding of the corpus – then apply your best judgment. For example, if you’ve run the conceptual clustering from keyword search results, consider doing it the other way around and comparing the outcomes. Only through due diligence can you maximize the utility of these technologies and the accuracy of your assessment.

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