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“Well-done ECA (early case assessment) uncovers 80% of what you will ever know”

“Experience teaches us that if you conduct a very good early case assessment that looks at the facts and the law and the witnesses and the documents that you will know when you complete your ECA, 80 percent of all you will ever know about this case.” Coming from PD Villarreal, the head of litigation for Schering-Plough, that quote packs a wallop.

If it is true, after the initial investigation most general counsel would be excellently positioned to figure out what needs to be done in the case, what the case’s likely settlement value is, what kind of firm and other service providers are needed, and perhaps an alternative fee deal (See my post of Feb. 23, 2008: early case assessment with 8 references.). Although 80 percent is not omniscience, Villarreal maintains that “it is adequate and sufficient knowledge upon which to make decisions about the direction in which you want to go to resolve most controversies.” The interview of Villarreal is in Met. Corp. Counsel, Vol. 17, Nov. 2009 at 11.

I can imagine litigation partners at law firms not all that enthusiastic about short-circuiting what might be a long-running and lucrative matter, but for the ECA analysis they do at the start. A conflict of interest? Somewhat like settlement efforts by a pit-bull litigation partner?

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One response to ““Well-done ECA (early case assessment) uncovers 80% of what you will ever know””

  1. ECA is the latest and greatest threat to yet another arm of the law firm’s profit generator. Technology is helping advance the science and art of ECA in real terms. That said, like many of the transformational events within the legal industry, the actual level of change will depend on how strongly in-house counsel wields this new tool.
    Whether you subscribe to Jeff Carr’s 4 buckets approach or my Practice/Process approach – the inevitability is that there will be more and more opportunity to decouple the processes that enable lawyers to do their job from the actual practice of lawyering. Often times separating the two components – allowing the practice to reside within the law firm and the process to reside within a combination of technologists, specialist, experts, etc. strengthens each respectively. And with this decoupling also comes a lessening threat of conflicts of interests.
    But again, it may require more GCs to act emulate Jeff Carr or Mark Chandler – forcing change yet enabling outside counsel to enhance value and focus services.