Defining IG for Law Firms
Information governance means different things to different people. Recently, when leading industry organization IGI (Information Governance Initiative) asked its community members to help it define the term, respondents agreed that there are a wide range of activities that fall under the umbrella of IG. Those activities are by the chart below from the Information Governance Initiative 2014 Annual Report.
In the chart, activities are ranked according to how closely they are linked to the concept of information governance. All the big activities are covered, including business intelligence and big data. Notably, out of all the activities “Records & Information Management” and “Compliance” are ranked at the top of the list. In fact, 97% of respondent said that records and information management were the most important components of IG.
Records and information management is where most law firms today get stuck. It’s a highly labor-intensive and costly aspect of their business, which is growing worse every year. Recently, pressure to meet compliance goals has increased significantly. More than ever, law firms are struggling to solve the information governance problem.
Information Governance Challenges for Law Firms
While there are numerous challenges that are unique to law firms’ internal setups, there are a few challenges that most share. What follows are the big bucket challenges we’ve been hearing about over the last 3-4 years.
1. Where are information governance policies being stored?
When it comes to technology, the legal industry is not the most innovative sector. As a result, it’s not uncommon for policies to be found in a three-ring binder, in an email, on a file share, or in a document management system. Lacking easy access, firms face numerous challenges when it comes to managing information governance policies and making them actionable
2. Are Outside Counsel Guidelines being followed?
This challenge relates back to where Outside Council Guidelines (OCG) are being stored. If staff can’t find OCG, applying policies on an ongoing basis is difficult to monitor and control. Most firms lack a streamlined process for tracking and managing OCG during new business intake. This makes following OCG policies practically impossible once the matter gets going.
3. What’s our compliance track record?
Oftentimes staff are aware that the firm has an information governance policy. However, they are unable to identify how closely and consistently the policy is being followed. A firm might be doing a stellar job with electronic items. However, compliance for physical records may have fallen by the wayside. Many firms lack an effective method of monitoring compliance across all repositories. And they are overwhelmed by the idea of trying to catch up with the backlog.
4. Can we measure our progress toward compliance?
This issue relates to the backlog of physical and electronic records. As firms implement changes with information governance and implementation, it’s important to see progress toward 100% compliance. Most firms simply can’t measure how compliant they are. Is the firm 40% compliant? Is it 80% compliant? It’s common for firms to have 10,000 boxes or 100,000 boxes of records to be destroyed–which means excess storage fees and needless risk.
5. How audit-proof is the firm?
Without efficient information governance processes, firms function under the threat of a future audit. Regulated industries – like financial services, government agencies, and the pharmaceuticals – have formed cooperatives to create detailed industry-specific OCG. In recent years, these cooperatives are contracting with auditors to assess compliance, which has increasingly extended to include law firms. Most law firms lack the ability to respond to client audits quickly and produce the necessary audit trails.
6. Is disposition defensible?
Everything comes down to making sure a firm’s records disposition is defensible. This is a major concern for most firms today. Without a simplified system for managing and tracking information governance, firms lack an easily accessible history of retention and disposition. As a result, in the event of an audit it’s almost impossible to quickly produce an audit trail.
Automate Information Governance with FileTrail
If your firm has gone to the expense of developing comprehensive IG policies around content lifecycle management, how do you make sure that they’re implemented consistently? The answer lies in automation. Automating information governance ensures firms can execute against their policies and guidelines, and significantly lowers overhead.
FileTrail has been developing records management solutions for regulated industries for almost 20 years. FileTrail GPS (Governance Policy Suite) is the only custom-built automated IG solution in the industry that integrates with document and business platforms right out-of-the-box.
- Automatically apply retention policies to Matters and documents across multiple repositories
- Apply Outside Counsel Guidelines to specific Matters or Clients
- Measure staff progress toward review and disposition
- Generate reports that forecast dispositions over the next 5-10 years to reveal the hard-dollar value of retention and future savings
- Streamline response to client audits with on-demand audit reporting