At a recent speaking engagement, I heard of a technology company that has retained a law firm to prepare assessments of litigation cases early in the case, even though the firm is not the chosen litigation counsel. It seems like a wonderful idea. The firm looks across a range of cases and develops a sense of the risk of the entire portfolio. The firm has no economic interest in how it assesses the likelihood of settlement.
Perhaps you could pay the same firm to submit a budget for the first six months or to review carefully and expertly a budget proposed by the trial firm, especially if the name of the trial firm were kept secret.
If some firms serve as discovery counsel, and some firms serve as appellate counsel (See my post of June 4, 2008.) and some firms serve as national coordinating counsel, why not ECA and budget counsel?