In the legal department, information management presents plenty of challenges. Whether it’s the 20,000 domestic regulations that apply, the maze of disparities in the international landscape, or the sheer volume of information that law departments now create and store, there is plenty of work to be done. According to Laurie Fischer, Managing Director at Huron Legal, creating a solid information management strategy boils down to three points: an overarching policy defining responsibilities, a strong retention schedule and a detailed procedure for information management and disposition.
The first piece, the policy, is designed to give a high-level concept of the ownership, roles and overall approach that the company takes as it relates to the retention and destruction of information. Fischer says, “The trend with these records and information management policies is to streamline them down to a couple of pages, and focus only on policy language. That’s what we want to arm our inside and outside counsel with, should we ever be asked ‘what is the organizations position?’” While previously an overarching strategy may have included some of the more procedural steps, keeping the document succinct and related to higher-level stances can protect a corporation.
“Almost all of these policies include the statement ‘this policy is applicable to all our records regardless of media.’ However the procedural language that had been in them was often times only addressing the hard copy world. So by taking that procedural language and having it in a separate framework, you can keep your policy focused on standards and best practices. Then in the procedural framework focus on how you’re adhering to policy and doing what you have to do in SharePoint, on a shared drive, in email or in your database,” Fischer says.
The second point relates explicitly to the retention schedule of the organization. Fischer says of a good schedule that, “It defines the records with in the organization and the retention time periods that each category of record will be retained.”
But the cornerstone of this plan is the procedure. This piece of puzzle defines how an organization will handle information regardless of the mode of storage, and gives the boots on the ground marching orders as they relate to the legally compliant destruction of information. “You want to facilitate an employee’s compliance to a retention schedule by providing procedural guidance on how this actually works,” Fischer says.
But one important point that Fischer emphasizes is that legal compliance also means complying with legal holds. “One of the key policy requirements we talk about is the retention schedule being applied in order to dispose of information and reduce storage and e-discovery costs. But whenever we talk about retention schedules, the next thing out of our mouths needs to be, ‘unless there is a legal hold,’” she says.