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What is the difference between EDA and ECA?

Your team has taken on a new litigation with possibly millions of documents. When faced with so much data, your team must decide how to best wade through the information to find what is relevant and responsive to the case. Will you go with Early Case Assessment (ECA) or Early Data Assessment (EDA)? Is there a difference? While they are often used interchangeably, they do have distinct differences that may make them more valuable depending on the situation.  


Early Data Assessment allows your team to quickly figure out how strong your case will be based on a high-level review of the data on hand. EDA allows parties to search and organize electronically stored information early in a case before the data is fully processed.  

EDA is more of a methodology, and because of this, each team may approach an evaluation differently. Because EDA is one of the first steps in a case it can help the team understand the scope of relevant data, and aids in fact-finding. This can also include informing all parties of where ESI is located. Data will be separated between critical and not, as well as narrowing down key players and words involved with the case. Think of this as the trailer for a movie, whereas ECA would be more akin to an actual review of a movie.  


Early Case Assessment takes the entire case and dives a bit deeper. The primary function of Early Case Assessment is to take the general overview of EDA and expand on it. This can include identifying main arguments for a case, key players and words, as well as liability analysis and analytics. Usually, this process includes a qualified review team along with specialized software like Relativity.

While both EDA and ECA give a snapshot, or 30-thousand-foot view of the case, the deeper dive that ECA supplies allows a case team to see the financial and legal liabilities a firm may be taking when accepting a case. eDiscovery costs are usually a determining factor for both the client and the case team.  

So, while EDA and ECA share some similarities, they are separate steps in the eDiscovery process. Both can play a significant role in guiding the next steps and key decisions in a case and the associated costs. Every litigation team will have a slightly different process for EDA vs ECA, and often the line between the two is blurred so it’s important for all involved to have a true definition and distinction to avoid any miscommunications. Ultimately once both or either process is solidified, leveraging the data and sophisticated technology EDA and ECA can give great benefit to the case team for making precise, and time-sensitive business decisions.