We live in a world of information.
Gone are the days when everything was on paper because digitization comes with a lot of benefits.
However, with digitization, there come a plethora of risks, and that’s where Information Governance comes in.
Law Firm information governance refers to any program or system designed to get your electronic house for things like eliminating risks, and costs, and making wiser business decisions.
While the program might sound rather simple to you, there’s a catch.
In this blog, we’re covering everything you need to know about law firm information governance and how it works, and at the end, there’s a checklist that you can follow to implement the right IG program.
Even in this modern era, companies don’t understand the importance and concept of electronically stored information or ESI.
Information governance incorporates the sets of rules, policies, procedures, processes, and controls to manage an organization’s data to eliminate legal risks and other risks that are associated with keeping the data of someone long-term.
Law firm information governance also helps companies make better decisions in the long run by providing them with information that they can use to make astute observations.
One of the biggest consulting firms, The Gartner, has described IG as “the specification of decision rights and an accountability framework to encourage desirable behavior in the valuation, creation, storage, use, archival, and deletion of information.
It includes the processes, roles, standards, and metrics that ensure the effective and efficient use of information in enabling an organization to achieve its goals.”
From this, we know the information of information governance and how important it can be for a business. Law firm information governance (IG) is the set of policies, procedures, and processes that law firms use to manage their information assets. IG encompasses all aspects of information management, from creation to storage, use, and disposal.
IG is important for law firms for several reasons.
First, law firms handle sensitive and confidential information on a daily basis.
This information includes client data, attorney-client privileged communications, and intellectual property. IG helps law firms protect this information from unauthorized access, use, or disclosure. IG helps law firms improve their efficiency and productivity. By implementing effective IG policies and procedures, law firms can reduce the risk of data loss, streamline their document management processes, and improve their ability to respond to eDiscovery requests.
To put things into perspective, let’s take a deep dive into a 2002 case where Arthur Andersen’s partner David Duncan pleaded guilty to the destruction of records related to Enron, which led to a criminal indictment of his law firm.
He burned the document even while knowing that the investigation was ongoing and it was a serious offense to burn these documents.
In simple words, if a company fails to suspend an IG program in the face of litigation hold notice, they will be penalized in court.
IG helps to protect information assets from unauthorized access, use, or disclosure.
This includes measures such as data encryption, access control, and security awareness training.
By reducing the risk of data breaches, IG can help law firms avoid financial losses, reputational damage, and legal liability.
It also helps law firms to comply with a variety of legal and regulatory requirements, such as the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, and HIPAA.
By complying with these requirements, law firms can avoid fines, penalties, and other adverse consequences.
IG helps law firms streamline their document management processes and improve their ability to find the information they need when they need it.
This can lead to significant efficiency gains and productivity improvements.
Overall, IG is an essential part of any law firm’s risk management strategy.
By implementing an effective IG program, law firms can avoid a wide range of risks and improve their overall performance. And this is not just for law firms because other businesses can also benefit heavily from IG.
Information Governance policy helps businesses design a set of standards for when and how records or documents can be disposed of from the company.
Whether an employee has left your company or there’s another old case, you need to know when you can get rid of those documents to move on with your business.
Otherwise, it can be a mess.
Moreover, when litigation comes, if a company or firm has deleted or destroyed the data fully within the guidelines of IG, they cannot be forced to produce the data back or recover it.
However, this doesn’t mean that all the data can be removed after the retention period because some businesses, like banking, securities, and pharma industries, need to have data saved way longer than normal businesses.
When we talk about banking, you sometimes need to have data saved for 7-10 years just because of how sensitive it is, and it can be used in the future.
The need for Information Governance is vital, and some companies have started IG committees for their organization just for the sake of risk management.
It is also referred to as “safe harbor.”
Lastly, in some companies, the data is never deleted and always saved.
However, this increases costs and also gives firms and companies risks when a case arrives. Therefore, the data must be handled in the right way.
So, how exactly do law firms use information governance to dispose of data in the most responsible way possible? To clarify things, one of the biggest headaches companies have regarding data handling is when they should delete the data of employees who have left the company.
To make an IG program work, companies should track the employees who leave the company to ensure that ESI under litigation hold is not lost or taken when they finally leave the company.
To make sure that the IG process is smooth, there should be extra measures taken to not improperly delete the data or the employee’s hard drive even when they leave.
Policies to preserve the ESI of departed employees should be implemented quickly.
Defensible deletions are the process of deleting information in a way that is legally sound and can be defended against any challenges. This is particularly important for law firms, which handle large amounts of sensitive and confidential information.
To create defensible deletions, law firms should follow these steps:
- Develop a records retention policy: This policy should define what types of information the law firm needs to retain and for how long. It should also specify how information should be disposed of at the end of its retention period.
- Identify and classify information: Law firms should identify all of the information they hold and classify it based on its sensitivity and importance. This will help them to prioritize their deletion efforts and ensure that the most important information is retained.
- Develop a deletion process: Law firms should develop a process for deleting information that is no longer needed. This process should be documented and implemented consistently.
- Audit and monitor deletions: Law firms should audit and monitor their deletion process to ensure that it is being followed effectively. This includes keeping track of what information is being deleted and when.
We all know the basic order of business. As the business value decreases, the relative cost of maintenance increases. When it comes to an organization’s ESI, a few questions must be taken into consideration. These questions can be: what is it, where is it, how safe and secure the data is, who controls the flow of data, and why do we need data?
To make an IG program work, you need a lot of time and effort.
A lot of companies allow their employees to bring their own devices to eliminate the whole risk of data breach or deletion, while some companies do not have this policy.
Hence, securing the data for these devices requires employers to give consent in employment agreements, which is the basis of an information governance program.
Law firms handle large amounts of sensitive and confidential information, so it is essential to have a robust information governance (IG) program in place.
An IG program helps to protect information assets, comply with legal and regulatory requirements, and improve efficiency and productivity.
Employees should be trained on how to classify information properly, how to use the records management system, and how to respond to eDiscovery requests.
The law firm should have a process in place for monitoring compliance with its IG policies and procedures. This process may include conducting audits and
In this blog, we’ve learned the importance of Information Governance, how it works, why modern companies need it, and what risks you can fall into if you don’t have a solid IG program in place.
By the end of this blog, you should have an astute knowledge of whether or not your business needs a law firm information governance program.
Saad started his Content Writing journey in 2019 on Fiverr, where he catered to over 100 businesses in different niches like SaaS, Crypto, Meta, Gaming, Entertainment, and more.