Information governance and records management have come a long way in 20 years...here’s what’s next
February 2020 marks the 20th anniversary of our company’s launch. Over those two decades, we’ve seen tremendous change across the information governance (IG) landscape. We’ve had great success in helping our customers in highly regulated industries respond to those changes. Together with you, we’re celebrating information governance innovation.
It wasn’t a coincidence that our entry into records management occurred as advancements in technology were driving exponential growth in the creation and storage of data. Predictably, this led to a need to manage all this information. And it prompted FileTrail’s development of the first completely web-based records management solution.
Today, firms face even greater pressure to advance their information governance capabilities. And increasingly, they are recognizing that records management is an integral part of that larger whole.
Progressive law firms seek a comprehensive approach to IG that includes addressing risks, implementing outside counsel guidelines, and more effectively complying with external regulatory requirements. Put simply, compared to where we were in 2000, these issues are now too complex to leave to manual or ad hoc approaches. Software that delivers greater automation, efficiency, analytics and control has gone from a “nice to have” to a “must-have.”
But all this progress—greater appreciation of IG and the growth of the FileTrail product portfolio—didn’t happen overnight.
Our roots in highly regulated industries
While law firms have always been FileTrail customers, many of the earliest users of our records management systems were in highly regulated industries including global finance, pharmaceuticals and energy. These organizations have demanding technical, compliance and policy management requirements, particularly with regard to retention and disposition.
As a result, we’ve built our products to work at scale and adhere to enterprise security requirements. We’ve also designed the user experience to meet the demands of modern web-savvy business users. Last but not least, we’ve ensured that an audit trail of all activity is captured automatically. This eliminates the need for manual tracking and reporting, which is inefficient, time-consuming, and subject to human error.
And now, as law firms implement and enforce rapidly evolving IG policies, they stand to benefit from these two decades of investment and innovation.
Information governance for law firms
More than a decade ago, ARMA International introduced its Generally Accepted Recordkeeping Principles, or “The Principles.” This was followed by the introduction of the ARMA Information Governance Maturity Model. Together, these identify the critical hallmarks of IG, which apply to organization of all sizes, in all types of industries, and in both the public and private sectors.
Law firms share characteristics with other highly regulated industries in that they generate a high volume of documents. For law firms, this includes work product created by lawyers and support staff. But firms face special challenges as they acquire enormous amounts of third-party data related to client matters. This data exists in numerous formats, is obtained from countless sources, and must be properly handled in terms of retention and disposition.
As firms move from paper to the electronic world, setting and enforcing policy to effectively govern all this disparate content has been daunting. Most firms have implemented basic document and records management systems. However, they have typically relied on admin-intensive manual tracking of retention deadlines. Many have destroyed records only an ad-hoc basis, driven by a tendency to “keep things just in case.”
Celebrating information governance innovation
Now that landscape has changed. Over the past 20 years, IG has gained more attention within law firms. This was underscored in 2014 when the Electronic Discovery Reference Model released an updated EDRM diagram to express the significance of IG. The model emphasizes that every well-managed e-discovery process starts and ends with sound IG. It also states that no project is fully complete—regardless of the stage where it stops—until it’s been tied back to explicit IG principles.
Today, law firm leaders recognize that simply creating a policy without fully implementing it—or worse, putting off IG entirely—is shortsighted at best. The associated costs and risks are significant. First, the hard costs of storing both physical and electronic records continues to increase steadily. Second, there are immeasurable security, compliance and litigation risks associated with holding on to those records longer than necessary. Finally, there is increasing pressure to address rapidly evolving regulations such as the GDPR and the CCPA.
Firms are realizing that now is the time to refocus their attention on IG. Put simply, what experts say regarding financial investments also apply here: The best time to invest was 10 years ago. The second best time is today.
The good news is that we now have information governance solutions enabling a whole new approach to managing data and addressing these specific challenges.
Effectively managing the information life cycle is essential to law firm risk management and client service. A solid IG foundation in place powered by modern technology opens new opportunities for firms to enhance their capabilities in several new and important ways. Client file transfers are a critical issue when taking on lateral hires, onboarding new clients, or closing matters.
Historically, managing client file transfers has typically required significant resources and relied on many manual steps. Client file transfers are subject to both human error and communication gaps within and between firms. At FileTrail, we’ve been working with leading law firms to address this challenge with our new matter mobility solution.
Considering the progress made over the past 20 years and thinking about the future fills us with optimism. We’re thrilled to be celebrating information governance innovation on our 20th anniversary. As a company, FileTrail is committed to helping firms meet urgent client demands, pass audits, and address new compliance rules with a modern approach to records management and information governance.
There are exciting possibilities on the road ahead, and we’re excited to continue along this path with you!