Early Case Assessment Guidelines

Definition: Early Case Assessment

CPR’s Early Case Assessment Toolkit (ECA) outlines a simple conflict management process designed to facilitate more informed and expedited decision-making at the early stages of a dispute. The process calls for a team working together in a specified time frame to gather the key facts of the dispute, identify the key business concerns, assess the various risks and costs the dispute poses for the company, and make an informed choice or recommendation on how to handle the dispute.

While one of the possible recommendations could be to settle or resolve the dispute, CPR wishes to emphasize that these Guidelines are not about settlement, although that could be one possible outcome of Early Case Assessment. Instead, these Guidelines focus on evaluating the dispute so that an appropriate strategy can be formulated, whether that is settlement, full-bore litigation, or something in between, with an eye toward reducing or eliminating disputes as soon and as inexpensively as possible.

Benefits of Utilizing Early Case Assessment

In today’s highly litigious business climate there are numerous business and legal trends supporting the use of Early Case Assessment. These trends include an increasing volume of claims and litigation, the increasing complexity and protraction of claims, and the resulting higher legal fees and settlements. In this climate, many legal departments have worked to develop new definitions of “value” and “win” by treating disputes as a business process, and protracted litigation as a defect to be remedied. One effective tool for controlling disputes and reducing or eliminating litigation is the ECA process.

There are numerous potential benefits of implementing an Early Case Assessment program, including:

  • Enhanced, early case analysis
  • Enhanced, early risk identification and analysis
  • Enhanced, early evaluation of potential end-game solutions
  • Enhanced ability to gauge business needs and solutions, and improved client relations
  • A reduction in legal costs and expenses
  • A reduction in settlement and resolution costs
  • A reduction in the “claim-through-resolution” cycle time

Successful Early Case Assessment

The growing adoption of Early Case Assessment programs arises from the mandate of in-house legal departments to better and more effectively manage litigation, in terms of outcome and cost, and to do so with better calculation of the business interests and objectives implicated by that litigation.

In addition, in-house legal departments have at their disposal more and better tools for gathering necessary data to assess litigation risks and solutions, measure progress, communicate lessons learned, and track successful strategies and solutions. Early identification of risks, business prerogatives, likely outcomes, and potential alternative resolutions should be a part of every Early Case Assessment program.

Utilizing the CPR ECA Guidelines

CPR’s ECA Guidelines provide a structured approach for conducting early evaluation of a dispute. It is intended to be a flexible tool that may be adjusted by in-house counsel to meet the particular needs of their business. It can be applied in whole or part depending on dispute circumstances to conduct early, rapid and consistent analysis of a dispute to find the most effective resolution path geared toward limiting corporate expenditures, serving business concerns and utilizing the most appropriate conflict resolution proces.

Many companies employ a computerized matter management system for purposes of tracking litigation, claims, government investigations, and related legal matters. The ECA is not intended to take the place of a matter management system; however, one may usefully become a component of the other. Therefore, corporate users are encouraged to tailor these guidelines and tools to their particular needs and requirements.

CPR ECA Toolkit Comprises:

  • A detailed, step-by-step guide for users who are less familiar with the concept of ECA and seek a comprehensive analytical model.
  • A short Executive Summary form for sophisticated users who are familiar with the elements of the ECA process.

To download materials in an electronic format, please use the links on the top left. For more assistance with your ECA process, contactcprinfo@cpradr.org.



Corporate ECA Commission

The organization gratefully acknowledges the members of its Corporate ECA Commission who contributed their expertise and insights to this project.

Lawrence N. Chanen
JPMorgan Chase

Dan S. Dunham
Pfizer, Inc.

Anurag Gulati
General Mills, Inc.

J. Andrew Heaton
Ernst & Young LLP

Paula A. Johnson

Janet S. Kloenhamer
Fireman’s Fund Insurance Co.

Patrick Lamb
Valorem Law Group

Professor John Lande
University of Missouri School of Law

Melanie Lewis
Coca-Cola Enterprises, Inc.

Duncan R. MacKay
Northeast Utilities

Deborah Masucci
American International Group Inc.

Julie S. Mazza
Citigroup Inc.
Barbara McCormick
Johnson & Johnson

Richard N. Papper
Bank of New York/Mellon

Roland Schroeder
General Electric Company

Beth Trent
Schering-Plough Corporation

Patricia Caycedo-Smith
Duke Energy Corporation

Nancy L. Vanderlip
ITT Corporation: Electronic Components

Jennifer Boyens Victor
The Victor Law Firm (Atlanta)

Thomas R. Woodrow
Holland & Knight LLP (Chicago)

CPR Staff:
Kathy Bryan
President & CEO

Cathy Cronin-Harris

Thomas L. Aldrich
Titles and affiliations reflect participants’ positions at the time of publication.
The views expressed in these ECA Guidelines do not reflect the views of the participating CPR Members' companies.
The information and resources on this website should not be construed as legal advice or opinion, or as a substitute for the advice of counsel.