ECA And E-Discovery Integration Equals Huge Savings

Monday, November 2, 2009 - 01:00

The Editor interviews Steve d'Alencon, Chief Marketing Officer, CaseCentral.

Editor: Steve. Please tell us about your role at CaseCentral.

D'Alencon: I am Chief Marketing Officer for CaseCentral. In this position I am responsible for product management, product marketing and corporate marketing. In other words, I evaluate market opportunities and assist in the development of ways to address those market opportunities by helping our customers and prospects utilize technology to drive down their cost and risk profile and to become more productive.

Editor: When did you folks decide to emphasize early case assessment (ECA)?

D'Alencon: CaseCentral's first-mover position of providing a multi-matter, multi-party eDiscovery product that enables post-production re-use of work product has put us in what we now call the "ECA market" for at least five years. Part of the answer to your question goes back to examining the definition of ECA. In speaking to our clients and doing our own research, we concluded that the term "ECA" sometimes is a misnomer in that people think it is one thing and in fact it is not. We found that the term "ECA" was being used to describe a host of activities that could literally be performed early, during, or late in the dispute resolution process. The most common ECA effort is to analyze a relatively small data set against target custodians, date ranges and key words in order to cull that data set to a much smaller, potentially responsive data set for attorney review in order to limit costs and, presumably, risk. However, there are a number of limitations to this approach. First, most of the current Early Case Assessment tools are designed only for the matter at hand and require a data export to another tool for active review. Also, the manner in which ECA is often performed today provides a disincentive to clients to perform other types of analysis. In speaking to several of our large clients, they were interested in performing "what if" scenario testing and risk forecasting on very large data sets that could be multiple Terabytes in size. In addition, since these clients were using CaseCentral's multi-matter, multi-party platform, utilizing historical system metrics such as cost and rate of review to deliver a scope and cost estimate for a new or pending matter, this would enable the client to more effectively make "fight or flight" decisions. These client needs, plus the more basic, contemporary uses of ECA, led CaseCentral to heavily focus on re-defining ECA away from a single-purpose utility and instead delivering it as part of an integrated review and production platform. This led to our announcement in June, 2009 of delivering the industry's first integrated ECA.

Editor: How did you go about doing that?

D'Alencon: At the end of last year, we realized we needed to formalize the tools and capabilities in our existing products for our corporate and law firm clients who wished to engage in ECA. We also realized that up to that point the ECA tools offered by vendors in the vendor community had largely been one-off stand-alone utilities that were utilized primarily to cull data sets and reduce the amount of ESI (electronically stored information) that would be moved into active review.

The increased focus that we put on ECA at the beginning of this year was number one - as I mentioned, to formalize our approach and number two - and potentially more importantly - to allow our clients to perform ECA in close proximity to active review because in our experience once you perform some aspect of ECA, typically the client then moves into an active review and ultimately production of data for the matter at hand. When we told clients that they could perform ECA in our product, identify a culled-down set of potentially responsive documents and move that culled-down set into active review in minutes, without any data exports or imports, they responded enthusiastically.

An important function involved in ECA is to load, profile and organize large data sets from multiple collection tools and data sources. Most contemporary ECA tools are really focused on data sets that range to about 100GB in size. To some, 100GB is quite sizable and in fact it represents millions of documents and emails. The interesting thing about early case assessment is that it is not always just about culling a data set for a particular matter. We found some of our large clients, especially the ones in property and casualty insurance, were also interested in evaluating extremely large data sets to perform "what if" scenario testing and risk forecasting. When I say "large data sets," I'm talking about multiple terabytes of information representing billions of documents and emails.

The reason those clients were interested in doing that was not because of a particular matter that they had but rather to analyze a large amount of data that they had collected or already had stored inside their organization in order to identify potential risks to or impacts on their businesses. An example of this is "scenario testing" to see how such things as regulatory changes or new case law might impact their industry and ultimately their company.

Editor: Most corporate counsel view ECA as a way to get an early handle on a case so that a strategy can be developed that will produce the best possible outcome at a reasonable cost.

D'Alencon: Yes, you are absolutely right, they are trying to do some predictive analysis of how relatively strong or weak their position is and what it might cost to review if they were to litigate the case.

In response to these needs CaseCentral built the industry's first process analytics and eDiscovery dashboard upon our multi-matter, multi-party product platform.

Editor: Is machine review sufficient to reduce the amount of human review looking at it from an ECA perspective?

D'Alencon: I think in 2009 the answer is that machine review alone is not yet sufficient to meet the demands when the matter is being litigated, but it certainly is the direction the technology is trending. That said, however, software like that provided by CaseCentral is doing a number of things that reduce the need for human review such as eliminating duplicates, identifying near-duplicates and checking coding and production histories. CaseCentral also provides search and analysis capabilities that allow clients to cull down or reduce the number of documents that move to active review.

Editor: What are some of the other features of the CaseCentral's ECA Dashboard?

D'Alencon: CaseCentral's software platform enables law firms, service providers and company offices located in different parts of the country and perhaps in different parts of the world to access the same system and the same, secure, single-instance document store. This system can be used for a single matter or for multiple matters and multiple parties.

In late 2008, CaseCentral built and delivered the industry's first process analytics and eDiscovery dashboard upon our multi-matter, multi-party product platform.

Why is this important? Because CaseCentral's process analytics and dashboard enable authorized users to receive real-time, quantitative measurement of key eDiscovery process points, providing critical insight into eDiscovery costs, trends and efficiencies. This information is vital for corporate legal and law firms alike to measure cost (per document, per matter, per law firm), efficiency (review time) and effectiveness (review quality) across one or multiple matters.

The Dashboard displays a series of real time graphs and charts based on usage patterns of the CaseCentral system up to that point in time. So if the client has handled 100 cases with 15 outside counsel and 10 staff attorneys, the client can not only access all the information it needs to know about their performance, but also see it graphically portrayed or exported.

Editor: Why is it advantageous to seamlessly move through the data collection stage to the actual production stage?

D'Alencon: Typically a corporate enterprise's IT department uses a tool or a consultant to do an initial collection of data and then process that data or load it into a culling or early case assessment tool. This then creates a reduced data set that is exported into a load file for import into yet another product from another vendor to do the actual review. Once the actual review and coding has been completed, in many cases the resulting, coded data set is exported into another application from another vendor for production. As you can see, in the typical process we've seen, there are multiple imports and exports and multiple tools from multiple vendors.

In the course of this process, you worry about compatibility and loss of richness of some of the data, especially when you are dealing with electronically stored information, and you introduce human error into the chain. In short, the typical process actually increases time, cost and risk.

In the CaseCentral system, ECA is simply an integrated component of the software platform. Clients perform ECA using the application and if the client moves to an active review, the resulting data set from the ECA process is simply copied into a case folder for active review and assigned. It is tremendously more efficient to handle the process in this fashion and provides the optimal outcome in terms of time, cost, quality and risk.

Editor: How does CaseCentral reduce costs?

D'Alencon: There are two interesting things happening in the marketplace. One is the notion that processing of data continues to trend towards zero cost and the other is the idea of continuing to integrate eDiscovery functions into a modular, enterprise-class, software platform. While processing will still involve paper for the forseeable future, when you are collecting electronically stored information and moving it directly (programmatically) into a system like CaseCentral for early case assessment all the way through to production, you don't incur the processing costs that you had when you receive DVDs and hard drives and thumb drives - it is a completely different model.

The other interesting development is that the first generation ECA products have positioned early case assessment as an independent, premium activity on the basis that it is the only way that a customer can reduce the data set and subsequently reduce the overall cost of review. These vendors charge an enormous price premium for those first-generation ECA products, and we've seen that premium be as much as $1,000 per GB, and we've seen systems that handle about 100GB costing as much as $100,000 dollars. Because CaseCentral is integrating ECA capabilities in close proximity to active review and ultimately all the way through to production, there is no reason for us to charge a premium; in fact, just the opposite. We wanted to provide a large repository of indexed, searchable data that a client could use to perform any of the Early Case Assessment functions and then move into active review. We wanted to encourage clients to have larger data sets rather than discourage them. So we set CaseCentral's ECA pricing to start at $10 per GB, which is two orders of magnitude less than current industry pricing.

Please email the interviewee at steve@casecentral.com with questions about this interview.