Big data’s growth and usage is both benefitting and befuddling businesses. As many are still yet coming to terms with what Big Data means, how it works, and the kinds of technologies needed to fully take advantage of what it has to offer, companies that are embroiled in legal cases face particular disadvantages. The storage and archiving practices of old — and the storage of particular amounts of data to prepare for legal issues — are no longer sufficient for businesses that need to be courtroom-ready.

Already, the need is clear for new methods of collecting and archiving large sets of data including social-based content. The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) fined Barclays $3.75 million in December 2013 for failing to preserve many of its required electronic books and records from at least 2002 to 2012. The records include order and trade ticket data, trade confirmations, blotters, account records and others. Since the failures were prevalent throughout the firm’s business areas, Barclays could not determine whether all of its electronic books and records were maintained in an unaltered condition. The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has stated that these FINRA rules related to document retention are essential for monitoring compliance. Other businesses should take note of the potential ramifications of not having properly implemented storage practices for social content and other kinds of data. 

The Florida Bar is one organization looking at how to restructure the way businesses retain and file social and big data. As the technology landscape is ever-changing — particularly when it comes to social media, communication, and information — different kinds of regulations are in order. The SEC and FINRA have clearly already begun to address these changing needs in regards to the types of data that are admissible, and major companies such as Barclays are feeling the effects of not being prepared. But The Florida Bar has begun an initiative to address how organizations can prepare for the changing regulations and technology requirements. The project involves deploying a cloud-based archive called Alcatraz, made by Actiance, a company that creates security and unified communications-based compliance platforms.

Jonathon Israel, IT Operations Manager at The Florida Bar offers some insight into the problems at the core of the issue for companies that require their social data available, since it is all admissible in court:

“The primary issue is having so many different, disparate systems. Searching and retrieving content relative to a public records request or eDiscovery case is a huge burden on the IT staff. The IT group are the only ones with access to search across those systems, so any public request or eDiscovery that comes in falls on IT’s shoulders. Depending on the scope of the search, this can be incredibly time consuming. 

As the amount of data grows, this only becomes more and more time consuming. Having a system like Alcatraz, aggregates all the content into one place. It also allows IT to set up roles for the public records department to retrieve content without getting IT involved at every step — that’s a huge time and resource saver.” 

Having a system that consolidates the vast amounts of data a company needs to have available for legal retrieval makes sense, but what about the old systems of archiving? Are they to be tossed? Most companies that have spent money building storage systems are reluctant to give them up in favor of cloud-based option, still, despite the known benefits. Israel says that, ideally, both old and new systems are at play: 

“Realistically, companies need to look at a mix of both old archiving practices and new technologies. At The Florida Bar, we began the process of evaluating our retention processes as a whole for all of our content. Having a system like Alcatraz helped with retention requirements for all of our data. Where data was previously siloed with unique retention requirements, now we have granular control over all data within Alcatraz.”

New levels of archiving are clearly on the rise for legal organizations as more data becomes available and admissible in court. With social media a huge component of businesses’ new legal concerns, they would do well to look towards a future with cloud computing.


Further reading:


Why Big Data is a Big Deal for lawyers

Pharma companies still fail to embrace social media

How to avoid social media ethics traps in lawyer advertising

Mitigate risk by deploying social media policies