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Early case assessment tools for e-discovery

Service provider takeaway: Early case assessment tools enable service providers to help customers cut the amount of data subject to expensive review and analysis during e-discovery.

The increased legal burden introduced by the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure

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is driving your customers to improve their legal risk management practices to contain costs related to e-discovery. Early case assessment (ECA) tools can support this goal, and storage service providers have a good opportunity to gain e-discovery business by selling and servicing early case assessment tools

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For those involved in e-discovery, there are best practices to guide the process. The Electronic Discovery Reference Model (EDRM) lays out the phases of an e-discovery project. Two phases of the EDRM model -- review and analysis -- consume much of the e-discovery budget at companies involved in litigation. These two phases require specialized software and attorney interaction, work that's best left to companies such as Stratify Inc. or your customer's legal department.

So where do service providers fit into this equation? You can add value to the e-discovery process by reducing the amount of data that needs to undergo review and analysis. ECA tools are the mechanism to cut the amount of data to be reviewed.

At DCIGInc.com, we estimate that e-discovery budget increases over the past few years are directly tied to rising costs for the review and analysis phases. Those costs are going up because data stores keep increasing in size -- there's simply more data to analyze now than ever before. Further research we've done shows that companies that reduce data before review can significantly cut their e-discovery budgets and better manage legal risks. The best way to reduce data before review is through an early case assessment.

Early case assessment can reduce legal risk exposure by offering a necessary view of the legal case information -- custodians (people), context, third parties, etc. -- before the meet-and-confer date (on which legal counsel from opposing sides discuss their technology capability and data types and work to reduce exposure to costly e-discovery activities). Early case assessment tools help get a handle on what data needs to be reviewed and what data can be ignored in the review and analysis process.

Early case assessment is an optimal way for companies to reduce their exposure to costly e-discovery review processes. By assessing the data related to a legal case as soon as possible, companies can identify the custodians involved in pending litigation. After the custodians are identified, the related information can be assessed for content related to the context of a legal case. The context will yield other custodians and, in some cases, additional context. This broader list of custodians and contexts can help a company settle a case and avoid court, thus reducing its financial burden.

There are a number of ECA tools on the market. Clearwell Systems' E-Discovery Platform, for example, is in production use at multiple companies, but none as newsworthy as Bear Stearns. Prior to the downfall of Bear Stearns, Clearwell had been working with the company to improve its early case assessment and create a broader e-discovery platform. Other ECA tools include Seagate's MetaLINCS and Autonomy ZANTAZ's Aungate. All of these early case assessment tools help companies address the overabundance of data required for e-discovery.

Because IT departments are often required to be on the team that supports e-discovery, security, risk and compliance, you should definitely work on selling these early case assessment tools to your customers. Keeping more data behind the corporate firewall will let your customers sleep better at night -- and save them money.

About the author
Joshua Konkle is vice president of consultancy DCIGInc.com. He has worked in a variety of end-user roles, including technology training and product management, and has been a director for SNIA's Data Management Forum. Joshua has spoken at archive and electronic data discovery conferences across the country.


This was first published in June 2008

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