Early Data Assessment: Setting the Standard in Ediscovery Readiness

Thursday, May 31, 2012 by Thought Leadership Team

Think tanks, judicial members, and practicing attorneys have all acknowledged the integral role Early Data Assessment (EDA) plays in preparation for document production. By using EDA, organizations tasked with the production of documents (not limited to production within discovery) are able to drastically narrow immense fields of potentially relevant information into smaller, refined clusters of pertinent data. That data can then be feasibly analyzed with test search terms and other input parameters.

The difference between EDA and ECA (early case assessment) is important. Whereas ECA involves the entire case—before discovery and beyond data analysis—EDA is a smaller, albeit important, subset. For example, ECA encompasses fact finding, venue research, liability analysis, damage assessment, adversary investigation, and litigation budget forecasting. EDA, on the other hand, aids in fact-finding and narrows the scope of important data early on. During the process of EDA, data is separated between critical and non-critical groupings, the number of key players is narrowed, key search terms are tested, and critical case arguments are identified.

Contrary to ECA, EDA is utilized in settings other than litigation. First, in regulatory matters, EDA is used to identify data quickly for responding to inquiries. Second, in policy audits, it enables parties to confirm their compliance with internal policies. Third, EDA is used to assist with internal investigations to answer questions regarding who, what, when, why, and how.

Faced with issues of all shapes, sizes and interests, many attorneys wonder which matters are best suited for EDA. While the answer depends on the circumstances, it is helpful to consider the following criteria:

  • The data volume and type Timeline
  • Maturation of case strategy
  • Value or liability of the case
  • Projected costs of processing and review
  • Type of key players or fact witnesses identified

Additionally, EDA technologies can be most helpful when you are:

  • Unsure of your case strategy
  • Unfamiliar with your document set content
  • Lacking internal technical resources to evaluate the data before processing
  • Anticipating that traditional document review and native file export may not be sufficient
  • Able to devote ample time to thediscovery process prior to production

These benefits materialize from the earliest stages of litigation to the latter stages of trial after the EDA process is over. The information and analysis available through EDA allows a party to reduce its expenses and increase defensibility by focusing on data most likely to be responsive in the further stages of processing and review.

Not only can EDA facilitate the entire production process, it also provides an invaluable early window into document review, which allows counsel to furnish “substantial human input on the front end [of automated search technology]” as suggested by the Sedona Conference. EDA is more than a technology—it is a methodology that involves people, processes, and the right technology. To experience the widespread benefits described herein, all types of entities that seek to proactively manage document review should consider the implementation of a comprehensive EDA solution.

Kroll Ontrack, Fourth Annual ESI Trends Report (2010).