Great architecture begins with a rock-solid foundation. Builders envision elaborate structures, but when the foundation is not firm, trouble is sure to follow. At best, a building leans; at worst, it completely topples over.
In the Information Age, businesses, especially law firms, don’t depend on brick and mortar alone—or at all. They exist digitally, and their data must be reliable, secure, and accessible to lawyers, support staff, auditors, and clients.
Attorneys cannot achieve nor sustain long-term success without successfully managing vital information. If your firm mismanages information, it creates risk, slows the speed of business, and erodes organizational value.
Do you have a solid information governance foundation for your firm? How do you know? Consider these key elements:
Records Retention & Management: Are you stuck in a 20th century model of retaining records? Overwhelmed by a tidal wave of data? Just as bigger storage rooms filled with file cabinets full of records doesn’t resolve your storage problem, neither does purchasing more, larger storage devices.
You cannot, nor should not, keep every record forever. You must differentiate “records” vs. “non-records,” quickly classify different types of records (e.g., employee vs. client), and maintain central control over your firm’s records. Learning what to keep and when to dispose of it is of vital importance to your information governance blueprint.
Environmental Complexity: Where does your data exist? Who has access to it? Today’s complex information environment demands tracking beyond simple unstructured (spreadsheets and documents) and structured (databases) approaches. Records exist within multiple systems residing in multiple locations that may or may not be under your direct control.
Wasted Time = Wasted Money: How much time do your attorneys and staff spend to find the data they need to make effective decisions and do their jobs well? Ideally, you want employees to spend less time classifying, managing, and finding information, so they can leverage the data to make effective decisions. The longer it takes to find the needed information, the less valuable your firm becomes.
Technology—Blessing or Curse? While technology enabled today’s data problem, it is also part of the solution. Today’s law firm can access current technology to understand data’s value with minimal human intervention. Intelligent archiving and content management solutions enable information capture, retention, and disposition. However, to be effective, these technologies need to be part of a scalable, coherent information governance framework
Information Governance: This is the necessary foundation for your data management. Gartner defines information governance as an “accountability framework to ensure appropriate behavior in the valuation, creation, storage, use, archiving, and deletion of information.”
So, how does information governance help your law firm? Here are three benefits of a comprehensive, enterprise information governance:
- Increase Access, Reduce Risk—Information governance goes beyond electronic discovery software by determining the value of information to specific users. Further, governance specifies who is allowed access to data at any given time ensuring accurate data to the authorized person at the right time.
- Eliminate the ROT—Most law firms struggle with ROT (redundant, obsolete, trivial) files. These clog your storage and your bandwidth, impeding timely access to your information. Additionally, outdated information discovered via litigation can be used against a firm or its clients. Ridding the ROT is essential to your firm’s reputation.
- Better Governance = Satisfied Clients—Successful information governance solutions are relevant to your clients. They want to know their confidential information resides securely with your firm as well as knowing they are not being billed for data search in an inefficient system.
If you’d like to shore up your firm’s information governance, FileFacets can help.