loading please wait..

What is ECA (Early Case Assessment)?

Early Case AssessmentEarly case assessment, or ECA, is a term often associated with electronic discovery and e-discovery software. According to the the Grossman-Cormack Glossary of Technology-Assisted Review, ECA is “[a]n [e-discovery] industry-specific term generally used to describe a variety of tools or methods for investigating and quickly learning about a Document Collection for the purposes of estimating the risk(s) and cost(s) of pursuing a particular legal course of action.”

However, as noted in this article from Inside Counsel, attorneys and litigants engaged in ECA before the advent e-discovery. As the author points out, “[b]efore the term was co-opted by e-discovery vendors, early case assessment was a concept that captured the essence of the trial lawyer’s craft, quickly analyzing and synthesizing evidence from multiple sources, collaborating with the client to develop an initial case strategy and formulating a preliminary discovery and litigation plan that will advance that strategy on the road to a successful resolution.”

He is right, ECA is not limited to e-discovery aspects of a case and should be an examination of the case as a whole to assess risks and benefits. However, although e-discovery and the assessment of electronically stored information (ESI) is just one aspect of ECA, it is an important one. Early examination of ESI may reveal helpful information not readily apparent from traditional ECA methods that may ultimately strengthen a litigant’s position.

As it relates to e-discovery, ECA is a pre-document review analysis of ESI relating to a legal matter often focused on:

  • volume of potential data to review;
  • file types in a data-set;
  • key concepts and keywords that might help focus review and document collection efforts;
  • identification of key data custodians possessing knowledge and information relating to the matter;
  • location of data sources;
  • conversation and e-mail threads to ascertain communication patterns;
  • data reduction so that it does not have to be reviewed;
  • deduplication, so that amount of data may be reduced before loading into document review tool.


One of the main purposes of assessing and evaluating e-discovery aspects of a legal matter early in a case is to gauge the time, money and resources it will involve. This helps manage expectations and helps budget for litigation.

Many e-discovery software platforms offer ECA tools that permit users to easily analyze data.  Some programs work in conjunction with legal hold features and permit users to conduct ECA efforts even before the data is collected. The software often presents ECA data graphically in charts, graphs and data maps.

We welcome the opportunity to discuss your e-discovery projects with you and offer assistance regarding early case assessment strategies. Please contact us to start the conversation.

Posted on June 9, 2015 in E-Discovery, Electronically Stored Information (ESI), ESI preservation, Software

About the Author

Chad Main is an attorney and the founder of Percipient. Prior to founding Percipient, Chad worked as a litigator in Los Angeles and Chicago. He is a member of the Seventh Circuit Electronic Discovery Pilot Program Committee and may be reached at cmain@percipient.co.