Early Case Assessment and The Cloud

A few weeks ago I wrote about the Early Case Assessment Trap and today as I was following the goings-on at the annual ACC get-together, it reminded me of our legal industry buzz-words and how vendors constantly re-invent themselves around the latest buzz. No doubt this week “cloud” will be hot  and “ECA” will still be generating a lot of noise.

The way I see ECA being applied is that the C stands for Cost not Case. Opposing Counsels get together and agree the scope of discovery based on the anticipated cost of the “document hit count” arising out of the agreed keyword terms.

Now granted, this is an over-simplification of a complex legal process and sure ECA means many things to many people. But, what we are not seeing is good, honest work being done in the early stages of a case to truly understand things like, who is involved, what is the company risk or exposure, is their sufficient evidence, what action should we be taking?

“Early Cost/Case Assessment” can quite easily become a template for “how much is this going to cost us” and “can we settle for less”.

At Catelas, because of the “buzz-word effect” which tends to make all vendors appear equal, we have shied away from calling ourselves an Early Case Assessment solution, for this very reason. We prefer to be thought of as Early Case Intelligence, where we endeavor to answer these key questions – who is involved, what was said and what action should the company take? We are trying to provide real, upfront intelligence to the client that helps them make smart decisions about the case, going forward. At then end of the day, Counsel does not want to be surprised with a “gotcha” six months into the case. Our mission is to ensure that Counsel gets “One Step Ahead” by providing key intelligence about the case within the first couple of days.

So this year at the ACC Annual Meeting, Early Case Intelligence may not [yet] be an industry buzz-word, but watch this space…

If you want to find out more check out this preso

Is there a gaping hole in the EDRM?

Firstly, with all due respect to Mr George Socha, I am not about to poke a stick at the validity of the much hallowed ERDM. The eDiscovery business continues to be well guided by it, but…. are we missing something?

Three years ago when I entered the world of eDiscovery, which by the way was at LegalTech 2009, a term Early Case Assessment (ECA) was all the rage. As someone who had come from the world of Information Security this made a lot of sense to me. I asked a lot of questions and while ECA meant many things to different people, for the most part it was a process for ‘getting one’s ducks in a row’   (getting organized) before the humdrum of following Mr Socha’s ERDM took place.

Very soon ECA was part of every vendor’s offering. In fact vendors re-invented themselves around ECA with many variations such as “we will pre-review your data using the assigned keywords and only charge you for the culled data”. But is something wrong here?

ECA seems to have become a cost assessment or financial calculator – ie “using these keywords we will cull down 300gig to 50gig in a linear fashion so that we achieve a manageable dataset to review”. It sounds terribly mathematical to me and somewhat contrived.

My observation is that the “intelligence” of ECA has been lost. A critical component of ECA should be to help attorney’s quickly assess the case, but I mean strategically assess it, not tactically. Understand if this is a case that could seriously expose the company. Get under the hood and understand whether you need a new engine or an oil change…. before you start negotiating how much it will cost to fix!

At Catelas we use the term “Early Case Intelligence” which does just that, we get under the hood. Maybe it will catch on, but we hope it fills a gap at the start of a case that answers the strategic questions (defend or settle) rather than simply the tactical one’s.

Let me know what you think.