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The vast majority of companies we interview do not follow their retention policies. The blame can be spread between legal, information technology and the business. This post will give 5 steps to help in-house attorneys succeed with Records Retention Policies.
To start in-house attorneys often treat records retention policies as a check box item. Yes, got a policy…..now bury head in sand. Information technology teams are tasked with implementing policies. In-house counsel typically does not know that more often than not, IT can’t execute these policies. Three reasons stand out why IT can’t make good on policy:
Next, the business (or end user) presents an even larger challenge for in-house teams. On one hand, the threat of end user productivity loss and reluctance to change makes the legal department cringe at the thought of pushing out policy and tracking compliance. On the other hand, legal teams tend to ignore end user considerations and assume they will do as asked (aka “told”). End user compliance with retention policies is horrific at best---across all spectrums of companies.
There is a better way to information governance that does not take even months to plan and implement. It does not even require significant experience. The method does, however, align the business goals of the General Counsel, Chief Information Officer and the Business. Legal and information technology departments are often cost centers to an organization—any impact they can drive to the bottom line is a win. Creating a properly aligned and automated information governance initiative that considers Legal, IT and the business can make significant impact on the bottom line (more about this later). If in-house counsel follows the following five steps, success is attainable:
Understand what types of information (including sensitive information) the company has and where it is stored. (1-3 weeks)
Create a retention schedule that is pragmatic and actionable by IT and the business. (1 week)
Invest in the proper technology to automate retention and disposition. Companies have many systems that house information. Retention, disposition and litigation hold functionality needs to integrate and address all these systems. Similarly, IT and end users can’t be reliably asked to become file clerks and research what they have and whether it is eligible for disposition—it’s never going to happen successfully. (2-3 weeks)
Meet end users and IT where they are. Utilize the tools and processes currently in place while complying with policies.
Automate retention. Automate litigation holds. Automate disposition. Remove the human element when possible.
For in-house attorneys, it ought to be evident over the past several years that corporate information growth is presenting business challenges. This phenomenon makes a records retention policy important to organizations of all sizes and industries.
Again, this ought to be familiar to in-house attorneys. However, a quick review:
Sound Information Governance can no longer be viewed as a back burner initiative. To avoid risk and cost associated with non-compliance, legal departments must consider how their policy decisions will affect the business. Success in this area can be expected if the proper steps are followed.