A handy early case assessment checklist.

Your early case assessment is going to have a resounding effect on the path that your case takes — potentially including its final outcomes. As with many things, planning and preparation are the keys to success. Your early case assessment is going to determine the resources that you need to complete the case in addition to its overall scope-of-work. The more thorough and accurate your early case assessment is, the better outcomes you’re likely to see — and the less likely you are to exceed budgeting, deadlines, and hours. With that in mind, we have come up with an early case assessment checklist to help your firm make sure it has all of its bases covered.

Our Early Case Assessment Checklist:

Where is the Necessary Data Located?

The first step you’ll need to take is to identify the data that is within the scope of your case and to find out where that data is located. A legal hold will eventually need to be initiated against this data, meaning you need to know the who, what, and where of the data to determine its impact. Today, ESI can be located locally on owned equipment, on private servers, on the cloud, or any combination in between. Having this information is, of course, essential when developing a data collection methodology.

What Type of Software/Platforms Are Being Used?

Collecting electronic information isn’t always easy. When using proprietary software solutions or more obscure software platforms, it can be more difficult to export information into a workable collection. Because of this, the actual software and platforms also need to be analyzed.

How Will the Software be Managed and Reviewed?

At this stage, it’s almost always preferable to use a consolidated and dedicated eDiscovery platform. An eDiscovery platform will make the process of collecting data far easier: the data will be available in a single solution, where it can be analyzed. eDiscovery platforms can also use advanced features, such as adaptive learning and predictive algorithms in order  to manage data for you. 

Which Employees’ Data Has to be Prioritized?

For smaller firms in particular, prioritization counts. It may not always be possible to collect and analyze data all at once. Instead, data has to be prioritized based on custodian relevancy. It can then be appropriately sampled and analyzed.

Which ESI Needs to be Collected?

Likewise, your firm will also need to prioritize which ESI needs to be collected — which ESI is most important within the scope of the case. By prioritizing information, you can analyze and manage large volumes of data, which could otherwise be prohibitively difficult to deal with. When working with limited resources, prioritization is especially important… and it will give you a better idea of the resources that you will need throughout the case.

When Will Data Be Collected?

Once you’ve created a priority list, you can stagger different stages or waves of collection. The highest priority items can be collected during the first stage, while each subsequent stage can collect items that are still within scope but are not necessarily as important.

Will You Need Expert Witnesses?

As technology advances and as data can become more specific and industry-tailored, it can become necessary to engage expert witnesses. It’s at this stage that you should determine whether an expert witness is needed to explain the data that you have recovered and what it may mean.

Altogether, your early case assessment is going to focus significantly on the process of discovery — though, naturally, there will also be things to consider with witnesses, physical documents, and other items in scope. By preparing your firm with this early case assessment checklist, however, you can drastically reduce the amount of resources that you need to use while also streamlining your processes.

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