Best Practices for Early Case Assessment

NOV 29, 2022 – NEW YORK, NY

Sandline was honored to host a Women in eDiscovery NYC educational panel and happy hour. We were joined by Heidi Santangelo, Assistant General Counsel at JPMorgan Chase & Co., Matthew Birnbaum, eDiscovery Solutions Attorney at Latham & Watkins, and our own Brandon Mack, Chief Operating Officer at Sandline Global. The panel was moderated by Cara Lemire, Vice President of Sales and Marketing at Sandline Global and newly elected Director of Women in eDiscovery, New York Chapter. The panel included discussions and insight relating to best practices in early case assessment.


Watch our panelists introduce themselves and explain their unique journeys into the world of eDiscovery.


What are the main questions that can be clarified by early case assessments? According to our panelists, the basic questions many clients have involve the scope of the matter, costs, and data location. Additionally, considerations need to account for custodians and the implementation of legal holds on the custodians’ data. With early case assessment it is important to know everything we can before any document review occurs to provide an airtight strategy going forward in the case. To that end, we want to look at ECA as telling a story and understanding all the data from the case. We need to then be able to explain that story to the client as well as interpret it for them to understand.

In ECA you must look at the actual data in the case, not the search terms, and understand what is in it. What we hope we have, what we fear we have, etc. It’s best to have the right stakeholder in these conversations and likely the IT department as well. Consider bringing in another perspective to consult on data, processes, etc. when needed. Understand the key custodians and what they were discussing. Keep in mind, we may need to bring people in to consult on how to handle certain data types.

Time to knowledge is important (i.e. How deep can I get at that information and how quickly can I get it?). Every potential client should have a strong preservation strategy in place (i.e. legal hold notices). Typically, an IT team will view data retention in a completely different way than that of a litigator. We recommend working with your IT team so that they understand the litigation process, what needs to be retained, for how long, and how it should be maintained.

Q & A on ECA:

What percentage of cases have chat data?

  • Essentially, every case has it, but the question is really does the client want it or want to preserve it?
  • Collaboration data was not easily attainable a few years ago, but now it is standard practice in the collection of ESI.

Are there any challenges to Early Case Assessment?

  • At larger corporations they typically have a process for lawsuits.
  • If there isn’t already a process you have to get the clients, service providers, and law firm on the same page to make discovery smoother.

How does analytics and TAR help with ECA?

  • It gives lawyers documents you need first and frees up time to do other things in the case. You must understand your matter to implement these processes, but they can give you key information much sooner in the case to hint at which way the case is going to go.

What are the cost savings of ECA to use Analytics/TAR?

  • You can use certain documents produced previously to train the next model to predict hot/key documents. This way of analyzing data can help cut down on the number of documents that need reviewing.

What does using lower cost resources do for the case?

  • It allows the legal team to focus on the merits of the matter and utilize a lower cost resource to code the documents. They can then have a higher cost resource look over those documents. Essentially it helps use the right resources in the right places for the case.

Early Data Assessment

  • What is the data and the timeline? We need a way to see what type of data there is and to understand the process for each type to get it complete. There’s nothing worse than closing in on deadlines not knowing how long a piece of data will take.


When you put custodians on hold…

Document the why so you can know when you can dispose of each person’s data following the retention period. Keep it handy so you can use it downstream in the event its ever needed for a defense.