Information Governance: Creative Sourcing Options for Law Firms

Bill Tolson

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Every year, the Law Firm Information Governance Symposium, sponsored by Iron Mountain, examines common approaches and best practices for law firm leaders who are looking to design and build a successful data governance framework. A strong framework enables law firms — and their clients — to choose the most appropriate elements for governing and managing information.

This year, the symposium created three reports on varied subjects of importance to law firms:

  1. Creative sourcing for law firm information governance

  2. Governance in the cloud

  3. Defensible disposition

This article will discuss the first of the three reports.

Law firms are now faced with emerging ethical and regulatory requirements for matter mobility and device portability. Many organizations are also experiencing increased client demands and growing data volume issues. Another major challenge is the increased focus from hackers on stealing client data. The main question addressed in this report is: How do law firms assemble the needed resources, knowledge and hardware/software to ensure compliance with regulatory, legal, professional and customer requirements and expectations?

The report outlined several best practices that will help law firm information governance professionals meet and exceed the goals set by executives, including reduced cost, increased security and higher attorney productivity.

Many law firm executives have come to understand that the majority of business has transitioned from banker’s boxes of hard copy documents to almost exclusively electronically stored information. They realize that, as a result, their traditional way of conducting business must be changed. This includes changing the firm culture, revising individual attorney (and staff) information handling habits and updating the firm information management systems.

As law firms move toward a more beneficial information governance culture, existing staff and attorneys will need to adapt. Firm executives, while also adapting to new processes and systems, will need to update their expectations and goals for the rest of the organization. By utilizing a defined project roadmap and accepted processes, the governance leader can determine the projects that will be completed by existing staff and identify the projects that will require outside resources and additional funding.

An effective information governance program is incredibly important, but usually not cheap. The first step is convincing management to make the investment in both the system operations update and culture change by effectively utilizing existing resources to produce a pattern of success. Once this is done, requests for further investments should be easier.

The report offered suggestions for creatively leveraging people to staff information governance projects and initiatives or to participate in associated operations. Additionally, the findings explained how to use certain systems that are already deployed in the firm to implement specific governance projects, and provided three sample projects (as well as a sample roadmap) that illustrate creative resourcing options.

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