"Retaining information that has no big data potential threatens to turn big data into bad data, which merely increases risk," Mackay says.
For example, firms that stubbornly retain client electronically stored information gathered in e-discovery even after a lawsuit has been resolved are occasionally forced by subpoena to hand over that data. "Not only does this needlessly divert firm resources into e-discovery sideshows," Mackay says, "it negatively impacts client information retention policies implemented to defensibly delete that data."
While many analytics tools are designed for use by lawyers with little or no technical experience, only the very largest law organizations should attempt to find, install, and configure the necessary software without outside help.
"Lawyers are experts at law but not at technology," says John Tredennick, CEO of Catalyst Repository Systems, an analytics tools publisher headquartered in Denver. He notes that multiple federal court rulings have cautioned that certain aspects of e-discovery require specialized expertise in computer technology, statistics, linguistics, and other technical matters.
"Law firms are well advised to focus on their core capabilities and bring in outside vendors and consultants to assist with the technical aspects of handling big data," says Tredennick.
Mackay stresses the need to thoroughly document all steps. "A robust audit trail is imperative when a law office is called upon to defend and explain ... processes and decisions to a court or government agency, and can show good faith to comply with legal and compliance obligations," she says. Yet the biggest risk facing law offices, Mackay says, "is not having a well-thought-out and designed plan."
Read More: "Defending Big Data"
John Edwards is a freelance writer based in Arizona. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.