Early Data Assessment (saving you time and money)

The concept of early case assessment (ECA) has existed for several years, with definitions varying wildly. For the context of this article, we are going to discuss our methodology of early data assessment, which we will define as the process of looking at case data as early as possible, and how this approach can save you time and money.

Assuming identification and data collection has already taken place, before you can start an electronic document review, data must first be processed. After this data processing stage, some or all of the processed case data will be migrated to an eDiscovery review platform. As the volume of electronically stored information has rapidly increased - in order to reduce costs - a number of techniques are usually introduced to reduce the dataset prior to review. These reduction techniques typically include de-duplication, file type filtering, date range filters and keyword searches.

Most data processing tools have not been designed for use directly by lawyers, therefore the process of reducing a dataset is usually undertaken by your eDiscovery vendor on your behalf, which can have various drawbacks:  Firstly, the introduction of a middleman disconnects lawyers from the process; and, secondly the process must compete for system time with the other processes being run by your vendor, including virus scanning and various qc checks. Both of these factors limit the scope for sampling data and refining keywords, date ranges and filters which are applied, potentially resulting in the loss of important or highly relevant documents.

Data hosting

The primary motivation for removing data as early as possible (beyond reducing the number of documents requiring review), is to reduce data hosting costs. The on-going monthly cost for hosting data can ultimately be one of the most expensive technology elements of an eDiscovery exercise.

Hosting large volumes of data on a monthly basis will soon mount up large costs. Even if data has been significantly culled during data processing, data reduction techniques used during processing could be overly inclusive, due to lawyers delegating this work to their eDiscovery vendor.

A different approach

Immediately after the data processing phase, our clients can choose to make all of their de-duplicated case data available for review in Relativity. Rather than loading the native files (which comprise the bulk of the cost for data hosting), we offer the option to load just the text and metadata of documents into Relativity. With this text and metadata loaded into a review platform case teams can start the process of refining their data set without incurring any data hosting costs.

Our clients can iterate through search terms, conduct a basic review of their documents and apply a variety of other filtering criteria, all within context of their case data, without middlemen and with the database available 24/7. Decisions to remove documents can be defensibly justified and the risk of indiscriminately removing important documents is significantly reduced, as lawyers are in control of this process. The data reduction phase can continue for as long as necessary, and incurs no data hosting fees.  Importantly all of this work is being performed in the familiar Relativity interface.

Once the final dataset for review has been identified, we simply publish the native files that you require into Relativity, and suppress those that are no longer important. If the scope of your case changes, the additional native documents can be quickly migrated to Relativity ready for review.


Our approach to early case assessment offers real time benefits, granting you earlier access to your data and providing more time to manipulate search terms and sample data before the full data set is available for review.

Case studies

Our client, a leading international law firm, was instructed in relation to a regulatory investigation which required compliance with strict deadlines in respect of search term reporting and agreement of search terms with the regulator.  Our approach to early case assessment provided our client with access to their data a week ahead of the full database becoming available; a period during which they were able to apply, sample and refine their keywords in order to reach agreement with the regulator.  With the review set properly defined, their review team began reviewing documents as soon as the full database became available.