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A Critical First Step to the EDRM: Information Governance for Lawyers

By: Eric Parish, Esq., CEDS, IGP

Summary

How defined and implemented information governance practices benefit lawyers.

Time: 3 minute read

Information Governance (InfoGov) has been defined many ways over years, and only recently has the legal industry begun to understand its relevance to the discovery process. 

My favorite definition for Information Governance is from author Robert Smallwood. He writes InfoGov is “security, control and optimization of information”. It’s a tight, succinct definition, unlike many others which are overly complex.

Maybe then it isn’t really a surprise that it wasn’t until 2007 that the Electronic Discovery Reference Model (EDRM) included information management (prior, the focus was strictly on records). In 2014 the phrase “information governance” first appeared in the EDRM. Finally, in 2020, the actual Information Governance reference model became included as the first (critical) step in the EDRM.

 

What does this mean for lawyers?

Simply put, when you have information governance policies and principles in place, you switch from being reactive to being responsive and – even better – proactive. 

Having an InfoGov foundation improves the areas of identification, preservation and collection as well as ancillary benefits when it comes to eDiscovery data processing, review and analysis. How? By radically reducing the volumes of data entering the EDRM. 

As a result, legal teams will have a much smoother eDiscovery experience because information is found more rapidly, along with less risk, less frustration and reduced resource requirements and overall cost. 

Lawyers know that Electronically Stored Information (ESI) volumes have exploded and so too have corresponding eDiscovery demands. Organizations are losing track of what data is stored, where its stored, and who “owns” it. These factors complicate the process of identification and collection. 

Consider this alternative, if your organization was managing its information in a proactive way, how that would drive a more streamlined eDiscovery experience for you? 

Having an InfoGov program with the right tools in place allows legal teams to get at records faster and more efficiently. It reduces the amount of time employees are wasting on searching for records. This is critical for lawyers.

 

Gavel on a tablet

Essential steps for launching an Information Governance program

Launching a robust information governance program usually means pooling internal resources or hiring out. A consultant can conduct a maturity assessment and examine your entire environment. They’ll assess where you are, where you're strong, where you're weak, where you can improve. Questions that have never been asked are going to be asked. It’s likely the old ways of doing things are going to be upended. Typically, this process begins with that maturity assessment

A typical next step to implementing an information governance program is to create (or improve) your records retention schedule. This is a drafted policy that identifies record series, retention period, and disposition methods. Once in place, you have a roadmap for disposing of information which impacts the identification step in the EDRM. 

Legal counsel should consider this – defensively deleting information your organization does not need, means that information never enters your eDiscovery workflow, and can never be discoverable. Additionally, the time and cost savings here is tremendous. Further, when you get challenged on missing ESI from opposing counsel, you can show that it was disposed of per your records retention schedule. As a result, you're much more likely to avoid sanctions and have fewer potential problems - assuming, of course, that you always follow your retention schedule and update as needed.

 

Good Information governance eliminates R-O-T

Discarded information often include information that has no business value – the redundant, obsolete, and trivial data, or “ROT” for short. 

Eliminating ROT is part of any good information governance program. Using a File Analysis solution is a great way to tackle ROT. It allows you to locate, identify, classify and dispose of non-record information with ease. This creates a net effect of reducing your organization's information footprint, allowing for potentially relevant ESI to be located and identified more quickly and efficiently. Additionally, file analysis helps with legal hold as it zeroes in on precise information that's relevant and puts only those documents on hold, rather than entire mailboxes or accounts. This leads to enormous cost savings.

 

Litigation doesn’t need to be a fire drill

Too often, litigation is a fire drill. It just doesn't need to be that way. The reason Information Governance is at the start of the EDRM is to reduce that volume of information that needs to go into the right side of the EDRM. Basically, when the “left side” of the EDRM is in order it ensures that the rest is streamlined and you're only looking at the most relevant information enabling better decision making, lower costs, less frustration, and just a better process all around.

 

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