e-Discovery and Early Case Assessment (ECA)

eDiscovery is a series of processes, in which electronic data located, preserved, secured, and searched with the intent of using it as potential evidence in a civil or criminal legal litigation, or as part of a court-ordered or government sanctioned inspection. eDiscovery is a systematic process of identifying, preserving, collecting, processing, reviewing, and producing electronically stored information (“ESI”) in the context of the legal process.

At present in eDiscovery domain, “Early Case Assessment (ECA)” is the trending technology, which is used for quick analysis of the digital evidence/electronic evidence collected from desktop or laptop or servers or from the cloud environment, to develop an initial case strategy and to formulate an eDiscovery and mitigation plan. In the pre-digital age, legal and Discovery teams used to work on paper documentation and nowadays, it is Electronically Stored Information (ESI). An ESI walk-through needs to be performed quite differently, as it is time sensitive and can be easily tampered/erased or deleted. It offers more opportunities for automation of tasks.

The source for both paper and electronic documents is digital storage media such as computers, mobiles etc. and the use of same is increasing in an exponential way. By using the Early Case Assessment (ECA) strategy, the required information is gathered, cut down and review the ESI (Electronically Stored Information) so they can make the best-informed decisions to:  

  • Removal of non-relevant data. 
  • Reduce the eDiscovery processing and Review charges
  • Defend or effect a compromise.

ECA is applied to create a proactive Case Management approach designed to systematically investigate a dispute in an effort to enable legal counsel to assess the dispute, to evaluate actual risk, and to impart a suitable settlement plan or a litigation strategy. In recent days, by using the ECA strategy there have been better results for faster and effective resolution strategies along with the reduction in the processing, review dataset and legal costs.
ECA uses the following four kinds of analytics: 

  • Statistical Analytics
  • Date Analytics
  • Textual Analytics
  • Relationship Analytics 

These techniques help in understanding the organization’s data, organizing and prioritizing the documents, and in cutting the noise data, which gives a much clearer, more precise, and broader view of the issues at hand, and the possible pitfalls to avoid, at the earliest potential stages of the eDiscovery process.

By viewing the Metadata and content, the top data types in a case can be identified, and to see if the data set contains languages that require translation or new file types that need the specialist treatment. The Statistical Visualizations allow understanding ESI from a purely numerical view.  

Date Visualizations swiftly show the tendencies in data by making use of the metadata and MAC dates that come with ESI. Relating Date Visualization with other metadata such as Custodian Information provides in-depth awareness into the missing data.

Textual Analytics reads and searches the content of the documents to provide rapid insight of the data. Textual evolution uses the following three methods:- 

  1. Word lists - Summaries a list of search keywords and a count of the number of documents containing that word. 
  2. Shingle lists - Uses a set of sequential words around key terms, such as five words in a row to fetch the near-duplicate documents. 

    Source: http://i2.wp.com/www.nuix.com/sites/default/files/2013/11/shinglelist1.j...
  3. Entities- Extract data based on common patterns of letters and numbers such as IP address, foreign phone numbers, Tax IDs, social security numbers, credit cards, and bank accounts. 

    Source: http://www.forensicwizard.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/nuix-regex-n...

Relationship Analytics provides a plot to know the details of who communicated with whom and the frequency of communication, making it easier to pinpoint the key custodians or persons of interest including those who were not originally identified and also helps to identify inappropriate communications. "

Combining the following five practical methodologies with the analytics, provides a good starting point in understanding the case earlier:

1.    Know your data
2.    Gaze for issues in the Data
3.    Understand what your key players hold
4.    Answer the Who, What, and When
5.    Cut the noise/ non-relevant data

An effective early case assessment of eDiscovery process allows the Courts/Requestors and litigation support associates to efficiently gather the required information, cut down and review ESI, so they can make the best-informed decisions pertaining to the Litigation. ECA strategy can be deployed quickly and provides value for time. 

Authored By - V V Satyanarayana Jalli
TCS Cyber Security Practice

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