The Akron Legal News this week published an interesting editorial on information governance. The story by Richard Weiner discussed how law firms are dealing with the transition from rooms filled with hard copy records to electronically stored information (ESI) which includes firm business records as well as huge amounts of client eDiscovery content. The story pointed out that ESI flows into the law firm so quickly and in such huge quantities no one can track it much less know what it contains. Law firms are now facing an inflection point, change the way all information is managed or suffer client dissatisfaction and client loss.
The story pointed out that “in order to function as a business, somebody is going to have to, at least, track all of your data before it gets even more out of control – Enter information governance.”
There are many definitions of information governance (IG) floating around but the story presented one specifically targeted at law firms: IG is “the rules and framework for managing all of a law firm’s electronic data and documents, including material produced in discovery, as well as legal files and correspondence.” Richard went on to point out that there are four main tasks to accomplish through the IG process. They are:
- Map where the data is stored;
- Determine how the data is being managed;
- Determine data preservation methodology;
- Create forensically sound data collection methods.
I would add several more to this list:
- Create a process to account for and classify inbound client data such as eDiscovery and regulatory collections.
- Determine those areas where client information governance practices differ from firm information governance practices.
- Reconcile those differences with client(s).
As law firms’ transition to mostly ESI for both firm business and client data, law firms will need to adopt IG practices and process to account for and manage to these different requirements. Many believe this transition will eventually lead to the incorporation of machine learning techniques into IG to enable law firm IG processes to have a much more granular understanding of what the actual meaning of the data, not just that it’s a firm business record or part of a client eDiscovery response. This will in turn enable more granular data categorization capability of all firm information.
Iron Mountain has hosted the annual Law Firm Information Governance Symposium which has directly addressed many of these topics around law firm IG. The symposium has produced ”A Proposed Law Firm Information Governance Framework” a detailed description of the processes to look at as law firms look at adopting an information governance program.