CPR Institute, the New York based non-profit organisation, will be known to many of our readers for its resources for the avoidance, management and resolution of disputes.

CPR has recently issued Early Case Assessment (ECA) guidelines, which set out procedures designed to help businesses decide early on how to manage disputes. Early Case Assessment is a conflict management process designed to facilitate informed decision-making at the early stages of a dispute.

The CPR ECA model calls for a team, typically led by an in-house lawyer, to work together in a specified time frame to gather the key facts of the dispute, identify the key business concerns, assess the various risks, and make an informed choice or recommendation on how to handle the dispute. The CPR ECA model focuses on evaluating the dispute so that an appropriate strategy can be formulated, whether that recommends settlement, litigation, or ADR.

Herbert Smith's November 2007 research The inside track and ADR tool kit include discussions of the value of ECA systems and alternative ways businesses can embed ADR use in a structured and consistent way.