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Information Governance Isn't Just Hype
Law Technology News
Information governance is more than the latest buzzword it goes well beyond traditional records management. While the term is becoming increasingly prevalent throughout all industries and types of organizations, what does it mean? At the highest level, information governance is a holistic, all-encompassing discipline that, when effectively implemented and managed, offers multiple and varied benefits to an organization.
Law firms, in particular, are at a critical juncture with managing both firm and client information. Unlike most other organizations, law firms, as custodians of client information, are often subject to unique and complex rules and requirements. Many firms are expanding traditional record practices to address scrutiny from clients, the pervasiveness of mobile devices, and increased matter mobility as partners move from firm to firm. Firms are identifying challenges presented by Big Data, including ethical, legal, and regulatory requirements and growing threats of security breaches.
A quickly changing technology landscape, combined with ever-growing quantities of digital content and client demands, creates complex challenges for those tasked with managing information. Effective IG programs require leadership, and efforts of every individual within the firm. Over the last few years, many workers responsible for managing information have started informal networking, exchanging information with the hope of learning, sharing ideas, and developing best practices. We often rely on one another for support as we navigate our way through uncharted territory. In 2012, Iron Mountain ( www.ironmountain.com) a vendor that offers records management storage, shredding, backup, and other IG offerings, recognized that the industry could benefit from the creation of a structured, dedicated IG program help respond to these issues. It proposed the establishment of an IG framework that could, among other things, provide a foundation for standardization.
Also inspired by the Sedona Conference, a group of law firm information leaders, the first Law Firm Information Governance Symposium was held in Chicago, last May, hosted by Iron Mountain, and co-sponsored by ARMA. As a result of the conference, A Proposed Law Firm Information Governance Framework was released in August.
Four key areas were covered:
A definition of information specific to law firms has emerged. As the report indicates: IG is an enterprise-wide approach to the management and protection of a law firm's client and business information assets. An effective IG program:
While the first framework will be refined and modified, the first exercise offers immediate value including a definition for information governance, principles, a framework, and clear definition of roles and responsibilities of all corporate citizens within the firm, and a security assessment framework.
As Rudy Moliere said in an August LTN report, "There are so many different definitions for information governance out there, but none that were very specific to a law firm environment. This will provide them with a road map."
THE ROAD AHEAD
Developing and applying IG principles to your firm requires a depth of knowledge of the concept, along with understanding your firm's organizational structure and culture. There is no one-size-fits-all answer, and an approach that involves the right mix of people, process, and technology is critical to success. There are distinguishable connecting points and overlaps among all groups within a firm. Many firms still operate in silos and need to tear them down.
We are moving beyond the "big stick" strategy advocated strict document retention policies, with warnings about the potential risks of keeping unmanaged, unorganized information and the associated costs. But with the emergence of Big Data, others argue that there is potential gold in all that legacy data and that while risk and costs continue to be important drivers, a well-designed program may provide increased productivity, help firms leverage business intelligence, and thus offer a competitive advantage in the marketplace. Certainly, vendors are influenced by their particular stake in particular protocols.
But by involving all relevant stakeholders to develop, endorse, and support an IG program, firm resources can be maximized and workflows developed to support the business of practicing law. When done correctly, lawyers can operate as lawyers, and the management and governance of information becomes a less intrusive task (aka less time consuming and less costly).
Compliance is more easily attained when the program harmonizes with lawyers' workflow. But converting to IG is not easy it can be a complex process that requires time and culture change.
To learn more about the latest trends in information governance, we hope you will attend our upcoming panel, "What Is All the Hype About Information Governance?" that will be held on Thursday, Jan. 31, at the Law Firm Chief Information and Technology Officer's Forum (held in conjunction with LegalTech New York). I will be speaking on the panel, along with attorney Carolyn Casey, senior manager, legal vertical, at Iron Mountain; Rudy Moliere, director, information governance and records management at White & Case: and Bryn Bowen, principal, Greenheart Consulting. The panel will discuss information governance for legal, key considerations for developing balanced programs, and offer strategies to gain partnership support and tangible (often surprising) benefits.
This interactive discussion will focus on issues of specific interest to CIOs and CTOs, such as their role and how an IG advisory board can add value. We will also address the challenges of Big Data, security, client information requests and audits, mobile devices and matter mobility, as well as new, existing, and emerging technologies. Users will gain a better understanding of how technology can be harnessed for business intelligence, how information governance can maintain adoption of document management systems, and how predictive technology might also support IG initiatives. There is good reason for the hype about information governance and there is opportunity for everyone to not only transform the way we manage our information, but to transform the business of practicing law.
Leigh Isaacs is director, records, and information governance, at Orrick Heerington & Sutcliffe. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article originally appeared in Law Technology News.