Quick Report on ECA from The Masters Conference

Ron Friedmann sat in on a session at The Masters Conference called Early Case Assessment: Looking to the Future – From Early Assessment to Early Awareness. His notes included the following key points:

What is ECA? It’s getting an early look at the facts of your case and at the scope of discovery.

Where are the immediate savings; how is this different than past? It’s not a tool per se, it’s a method (a process, the right people, and technology). ECA does not generate savings very early – it’s not about upfront savings. You have to invest at the outset to learn about the case. Clients typically want to delay spending, so ECA is counter-intuitive to many lawyers.

Other than cost, are there other limits that hold back ECA? Clients are the main barrier. We are moving beyond linear review and search terms to a more subjective approach.

Tools that are better at ‘understanding’ data are in the ECA bucket… how do these emerging technologies affect the process, especially if clients bring the tools in-house? To start, who should operate the tools? It depends on organizational structure. It can be IT, Legal, Info Security, other corporate departments.

Ron’s comments on the session include the observation “What struck me most about this discussion is how much education is required “ and he goes on to comment that  it seems we’ve been talking about these issues for over 20 years.  Remember that in 1990, early tools such as scanning and OCR’ing led to full-text databases which could be searched by both conceptual and Boolean tools.

So why are we still trying to convince people to do iterative searches of data to pare down document populations? Ron notes that “The vendor challenge here is that clients are reluctant in this environment to spend upfront. So you need to educate your client – let them know that ECA will reduce the volume of documents that require human review. “

Fascinating comments as always from Ron and you can read more on this and his other reports from The Masters Conference  at his blog, Strategic Legal Technology.

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1 comment so far

  1. Tom Mancuso on

    The points you mention about ECA are critical to establishing a successful plan and avoiding problems in the middle of discovery. I was hosting a cocktail party for some key clients and one of the attorneys mentioned to me the difficulty he had with his team on a recent case with regard to producting complex Excel spreadsheets from data they were reviewing. We had talked about ECA and that all parties concerned would have been better served in agreeing how they would approach this piece of the production.


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