The litigation technology industry has been grappling with how to find consensus over distinctions between a pair of key acronyms in eDiscovery that are related but separate: Early Data Analysis (EDA) and Early Case Assessment (ECA).
According to The Cowen Group’s “2016 Q2 eDiscovery Critical Trends Survey,” nearly all litigation technology and eDiscovery professionals expressed an understanding of EDA as being a sub-set of ECA. As one respondent put it: “EDA involves assessment of data types, volume and location in order to influence decisions about how the data will be handled. ECA considers legal strategy and the end goal for how to manage the overall strategy of the case.”
“ECA has long been understood as a structured process for learning about a case and developing a litigation strategy from the earliest stages,” said Steve Ashbacher, vice president of litigation solutions with the LexisNexis software and technology business. “In recent years the concept of ECA has been stretched so broadly that it has lost its meaning to many professionals in our industry. One of the major reasons for this dilution is that too many in the eDiscovery software business have used the term interchangeably with EDA.”
With the explosion of electronic evidence and all the new forms of data over the last several years, the expensive tools of eDiscovery have transformed ECA into more of a data management exercise. The substantial expenses of preservation, collection and review — along with the risk of serious sanctions for critical errors in this process — have shifted the focus from case assessment to data assessment.
“Our view is that while EDA and ECA have always been two different concepts, the technology has now arrived to make this distinction meaningful,” said Ashbacher. “In short, we now have software tools available that can empower litigators to make better decisions about their cases by having more useful insights at earlier stages in the development of litigation strategy.”
According to Ashbacher, EDA is about making low-risk or no-risk decisions to reduce the amount of data that has to be reviewed. ECA is about using more advanced methods and technology to expose “the signal in the noise” of the remaining data. ECA is about making more informed decisions through logical grouping, clustering, visual analytics and machine learning. Understanding the issues, people and entities in a matter is key to building an effective case strategy – and gaining this understanding as quickly as possible can be crucial in determining the outcome of a case.
“It’s important to understand that both of these functions are crucial,” he said. “Indeed, even those litigation professionals who have experienced frustration with emerging eDiscovery technology promises – such as predictive coding and other technology assisted review applications – have found the value of EDA.”
The problem is that when ECA turns into nothing more than data assessment, your litigation team has put the cart before the horse. The solution is to find a new approach that delivers a continuous story of your case as it unfolds step-by-step, from day one to resolution. Next week we’ll take a closer look at that part of the story.
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This post is by Daryn Teague, who provides support to the litigation software product line based in the LexisNexis Raleigh Technology Center.