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eDiscovery Analysis: Initial Case Assessment

Analysis can be conducted as soon as the first batch of documents and emails have been collected and processed. This provides an initial assessment of the materials of the case, identifying important people, important topics, vocabulary and jargon in use, and individual items of high importance. This early knowledge informs early decisions (e.g., the level of exposure and how much time and money should be spent on the case) and helps to organize the rest of the discovery activities to be most efficient and effective (e.g., identifying people to interview and questions to ask, deciding which additional materials need to be collected, writing an effective review guide and prioritizing materials for review).

The Process of Initial Case Assessment

A good first step is to explore the collection with the range of analysis tools at your disposal. If all you have is traditional search, you can try some queries based on the nature of the case. As you find results, read some of them and make note of vocabulary used, people involved and time frames. Begin to develop a glossary, a list of key people, and a time line. If you find important items, mark them immediately and consider their implications.

With just search, this is a hit-or-miss proposition. At the other end of the spectrum, if you have access to all of the analysis capabilities covered in At the Onset: IT Analysis, packaged within a flexible user interface that allows you to quickly apply different techniques on a variety of investigative paths and guides you along the way with analyses of each sub-collection you reach, then much more can be determined quickly. Consider this process:

  • Examine the collection as a whole, making note of the most important people and their interrelationships, the key phrases, the most important topics, and the most important time intervals.
  • Explore sub-collections by drilling into each area noted in step 1, building on your lists of important people, vocabulary, times and topics.
  • Perform searches to explore more specific areas of direct relevance to the case, taking advantage of what you know about the issues of the case combined with what you've learned about vocabulary and key people. For each search result set, explore its key people, phrases, topics and categories. Extend your lists of people, vocabulary, times and topics. Note connections between topics and between people.
  • When looking at individual items, look at their entire context group. Pay particular attention to side conversations, as the most important communications are frequently short and private. Identify individual items of importance.


It is particularly important to have a flexible user interface, since there is always trial and error in this process. The easier it is to follow various analysis paths the faster you will understand the material.

With this approach, you should be able to quickly discover the most important facts about the case, whom you need to interview to gain additional information, and additional materials you might need to collect (e.g., additional custodians). Most likely, you will have more tools than just search, but not every capability covered here. In that case, develop a process based on the above that works with your tool set to obtain as much early information quickly as possible.

Source: EDRM (

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