Traditional eDiscovery professionals and thought-leaders are expanding their scope to embrace Information Governance (IG). As this year’s cause célèbre, IG is quickly emerging as a cross-disciplinary approach to managing data and a proactive legal discipline that exploits modern data analytic technology to categorize enterprise information in anticipation of need. We have seen a lot of movement and chatter regarding IG especially with the advent of the Information Governance Initiative (www.iginitiative.com).
At heart, IG is an organizational process that seeks to organize “big data” at an institutional level to manage the constant creation of information. The concept of IG may also be characterized as risk management, litigation preparedness or litigation avoidance. On a very basic level, understanding an organization through advanced data analytics may allow entities to preventatively manage risk and develop a greater appreciation of human capital, business processes and lost efficiencies. In a world where we are often distracted by the volume of data, IG may allow us to once again focus on its value. Though IG is not strictly a legal process, it may expand the scope of client counsel and dramatically impact representation in a number of ways;
• A new services-oriented business opportunity to support client need
• Enhanced collection relevancy
• Increased collection speed
• Reduced review cost
• A deeper understanding of your client’s business practices and players
In terms of managing client data, law firms are infrequently proactive advocates…we respond to need. Law firms have assisted clients with their data/information in defensive ways for years; preservation plans, litigation holds, and data collections in response to subpoena or investigation but, these are not preventative in nature and, generally, eDiscovery has inherently been a responsive process. eDiscovery is like running to the ER for every independent issue and IG is like long-term, holistic healthcare that seeks comprehensive well-being.
So, if IG is cross-disciplinary in terms of the parties at the table, who drives the conversation and action? Are law firms driving the process on behalf of clients? Within a client’s organization, IT, Compliance, the General Counsel’s Office, HR (in terms of PII – Personally Identifiable Information or HIPAA), technology vendors and outside counsel may be involved in the conversation. As advocates, I believe that there is a powerful role for law firms (outside counsel) to direct the development of IG principles on behalf of a client to promote substantive categorization of internal data in anticipation of regulatory action or litigation.