I spent part of last week at Legal Tech, the ‘world’s largest Legal Technology conference.’ I certainly hope that claim is true, because it was indeed a large gathering. Although my own interest in information governance encompasses quite a few areas, I am very focused on how information management and risk management are related. The need for information governance becomes apparent at a show like Legal Tech, where you can see the consequences of not taking care of governance in the first place. All those lawyers, paralegals, lit support managers, vendor representatives, judges and who knows who else were there to find better ways to manage information using technology.
The ‘stuff’ of a legal case, at least a civil case, is essentially two people or groups who have different stories concerning a particular event. It can be as simple as ‘you breeched a contract’ versus ‘no I didn’t’ or perhaps ‘yes I did but here’s why’. It can also be very complicated. Particularly in large companies, no one has the whole picture and that picture must be pieced together from the stories people tell and the documentary evidence or testimony that they can produce that supports their side of the argument. Of course, that documentary evidence is now mostly electronic. Electronically stored information(ESI) is a HOT topic in legal circles and most lawyers don’t know all that much about it, or if they do, are concerned with making use of it in any way they can, offensively or defensively. The problem these days is naturally compounded by the sheer volume of the stuff. With companies being in the state they are regarding the proper management of information, lawyers can no longer conduct exhaustive searches of all that is available. In large class action suits (think of the tobacco litigation) there are millions upon millions of individual items that might be considered, millions of items to find, and millions to produce. It cannot be done without technology, certainly.
The legal profession has come to this conclusion. Lawyers, whether they be in-house or outside counsel, are in search of technology that will help them ‘find the truth’ and support their side of the argument. The legal profession is are also beginning to side with IT in the cause of proper information governance inside the organizations they work for. They know that if there were less and if it were better organized, or even if they could simply find whether or not a certain information set existed, their lives would be less complicated and their company’s legal bills would be smaller.
When I first started covering compliance, retention, archiving, records and information management at Gartner, I rarely if ever spoke to lawyers. Now I speak to them all the time. They are allied with IT in an effort to try and bring costs down, reduce risk and generally sleep better at night by championing the cause of information governace. To them it means less information to ask about, less to search and less in which their opponents might find the mythical smoking gun email – which isn’t mythical by the way – or alternatively the faster they do find the smoking gun, the shorter (and less expensive) the case will be.
So, if you have not yet spoken to your legal department – or if you are a lawyer who has not yet formed a bond of mutual interest with your in-house IT department – about any information governance plans you may have, you should do so. You are on the same side, one that supports a program, a way of thinking and a way of working that reduces the burden of information overload by practicing good governance.
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We agree that the legal community needs to better manage their information. In our discussons with law firms, we find that they are most concerned with maintaining billable hours… After all, they charge to the minute for research toward your case. The notion that some wish to reduce expense is interesting because in reducing expense, they also will, in turn, reduce what they can charge to customers. The argument that they will become more efficient and able to take on more billable work seems to fall on deaf ears.
Would be happy if you could address this more in future blogs.