by David Rostov
There are some very exciting trends and developments going on in the Early Case Assessment (“ECA”) phase of litigation. ECA is a critical part of the litigation process since it is a time to perform a preliminary analysis of the merits of a case, claims, likely defenses and estimate of the cost of the case. Usually the ECA is conducted in the first 90 days from the time a case is filed. There is general agreement that ECA improves litigation outcomes. For example, a survey by LexisNexis showed that ECA results in favorable outcomes in 76% of cases and reduces litigation expenses in 50% of cases.
In the digital era, the BIG CHALLENGE is getting access to the electronic data early in the ECA process and having the tools to allow the legal team to evaluate the case based on a preliminary review of the evidence. This is both a technology challenge as well as a cost challenge. The good news is that there are now a number of early case assessment tools on the market that can solve this problem. We are big fans of Clearwell for this and our clients are seeing the value.
The key benefits from this are:
- Speeding up access to client data. The documents can be fully indexed and available to review within hours rather than weeks.
- An easy to use web interface. This means it is available anywhere and anytime. There is no need to rely on internal IT resources and no need to purchase additional software or hardware.
- Collaboration between in-house counsel and outside counsel. It is very easy to have the legal team work together to examine key documents.
Effective use of an early case assessment tool makes it possible to prepare an Early Case Assessment in the digital era. A good understanding of the documents allows the legal team to prepare a more complete litigation strategy. It also helps lower the overall cost of the case by reducing the amount of data that needs to be processed for review and correspondingly reducing the amount of legal hours required for review. The other added benefit is that the legal team will be able to create a more accurate budget for the case based on their insight into the data size and its nuances.