3 Reasons Why Early Data Assessment Is Important for Large Cases

Published on January 21, 2020

Keith Wilson

As a transplant from eDiscovery software to eDiscovery service, Keith brings a deep understanding of automation to eDiscovery process design. He has worked with Fortune 500 and AmLaw 100 clients to gain efficiencies in the redaction process and alternative eDiscovery workflows.

I need a cup of coffee to get started in the mornings. Maybe you know the feeling. When I get my morning cup, I get a jump-start on my day, heading into the office with focus and energy. When I don’t get it…. Let’s just say avoidable mistakes are made. Early data assessment can give an attorney the same kind of leg up. But unlike coffee, it’s not well known or widely available. Let’s talk about what early data assessment entails, what its benefits are, and how it can help you level up your firm’s processes and strategies for large cases.

What is early data assessment, and why does it matter?

Early Data Assessment addresses the “cliff” between when the data has been collected, and when the big expenses of discovery hit. Typically, attorneys are forced to either be left in the total dark about what is in the data, or to have to spend a substantial amount of money before they’re ready to. Don’t you wish there was a better option where you can spend a little bit of money and gain some insight? Further, there’s a timing cliff. Attorneys hold back on doing anything with the data until the last minute possible, because they don’t want to incur the expense until they’re absolutely certain they have to. But then they’re trying to squeeze all the processing / search term work into a short period of time — which, even under the best circumstances — is going to result in mistakes and miscommunications. Instead of the team plugging away at technology before thinking through the best approach to the data, an early data assessment lets the team create an action plan for addressing data and using it to craft the best possible litigation strategy. Doing early data assessment well can be a huge boon for attorneys. I’ve seen firsthand how the benefits of doing early data assessment with Acorn has impacted litigation strategy and outcomes. Here are the three biggest benefits:

1) Helping lawyers start developing their litigation strategy early.

Even before attorneys see their first document in discovery, they likely have an idea of what kind of evidence you’re looking for and where. With early data assessment, they can turn those hunches into a sound legal strategy from day one by understanding what types of documents a data set includes, how many documents there are, and what they are known or suspected to contain. This insight gives attorneys an advantage in settling with opposing counsel on the list of search terms to be used in a given matter, allowing the defense to delay or avoid producing any skeletons in the defendant’s closet or the prosecution to vigorously pursue smoking guns. Beyond search term strategy, early data assessment provides attorneys with broader certainty as to what the litigation process will be like. For instance, an early data assessment gives them the opportunity to decide whether it will be more efficient to have their associates surfacing key documents or to contract with an external review team. Then, they could decide to prioritize specific files in the document review process, so the data processing bill would come in stages, potentially saving time and money should the matter reach a settlement. The bottom line is, the more certain attorneys are about the total expense of eDiscovery and what the drivers are, the better they can advise and manage their clients.

2) Gaining efficiency.

Analyzing the types of documents early can help attorneys think strategically about what to do with the data in order to become more efficient. One-way attorneys can be more efficient in review is to review less documents. An EDA can help cull documents before processing in order to need to review less. Examples of this is by culling out vacation photos, photos of a facility, or call recordings that were under three seconds that would all be non-responsive. Attorneys can also become more efficient by preparing for future issues. There are certain data types, such as CAD files and some proprietary documents, that are almost always not going to be able to be reviewable in Relativity. Attorneys will either need to review these documents using a specific program, or natively. Knowing that there are these types of documents in the data set early can help the attorneys prepare a strategy going into review, instead of being surprised when they come up.

3) Maximizing litigation budgets by giving attorneys a better understanding of data.

An early data assessment helps attorneys step back and reassess the both the litigation and eDiscovery budgets with better-defined data sizes and an actual document count so that the law firm and end-client better understand what you’re getting into. EDA is a tool by which scope can be clarified and confirmed and budgets can be finalized. Thinking strategically about your data early on in the process is as important as your morning cup of coffee. It gives your team a boost for processing data, metering out your budget, and defining your overall strategy, all of which can jump-start the way you approach a large case. Have you seen examples where an early data assessment could have been useful? ____________ Be Sure to Follow Me for the Latest Content and Subscribe For the Latest Acorn Insights! 

About Acorn 

Acorn is a legal data consulting firm that specializes in AI and Advanced Analytics for litigation applications, while providing rigorous customer service to the eDiscovery industry. Acorn primarily works with large regional, midsize national and boutique litigation firms. Acorn provides a high-touch, customized litigation support services with a heavy emphasis on seamless communications. For more information, please visit