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6 Ways to Bring Legal and IT Departments Closer Together

Shana Kirchner

Though their missions often intersect, IT and legal departments sometimes have trouble getting on the same wavelength. In discussions on information governance policies, IT teams may think about data retention from a cost standpoint, while legal may approach it from a regulatory compliance standpoint. Whatever their starting points, the two teams must come together in the end.

If the two departments are unable to bridge the gap, the time and cost consequences on litigation are significant—and failing to identify relevant information during e-discovery could lead to sanctions. But, if IT and legal can build policies together, the benefits unfold quickly.

Here are six tips for bringing these groups together for more effective e-discovery.

1. Create and test data maps.

In advance of e-discovery, develop a data map accounting for all the data repositories within the organization. This will help legal teams quickly find business records—particularly important in the event of litigation. Once the map is created, analyze your repositories to ensure they follow the standard it sets—and share that map with the company to encourage compliance.

2. Build and implement a data retention policy.

Throughout litigation, clearly defined data retention policies are critical for ensuring your preservation and identification processes are defensible. With legal’s guidance on what should be kept and IT’s expertise on how to do it, you can collaborate to create an air-tight policy. Be sure to publish the policy for transparency, and enforce it to ensure employees are sticking to the rules.

3. Establish a cadence for communication.

Legal is often educating IT on the legal implications of moving data, updating infrastructure, or altering metadata. Meanwhile, IT is explaining considerations like the importance of backups for disaster recovery and compliance. Establish regular check-ins to support clear communication when it comes to data management. That way, both teams are consistently learning and there’s no confusion when litigation occurs.

4. Define clear roles for all departments involved.

At the start of the e-discovery process, identify key stakeholders from IT, records management, legal, and finance to ensure everyone is working cohesively. Set clear expectations for timing, as legal teams may not know how long it takes to complete IT-related tasks like data encryption, and IT teams may not know what steps are involved on the legal side.

5. Get back to baseline vocabulary.

FRCP, cloud migration, Bates numbers, SMTP. IT and legal each has a unique vernacular that works in their world but can cause confusion for others. Defining terms in plain English or forgoing the jargon altogether will help everyone speak the same language.

6. Hold a retrospective meeting to learn from the past.

When litigation or a compliance project concludes, come together to identify what worked well and what needs to improve. Adjust the retention policy and data maps, and remember: they are evolving documents that can and should change as data landscapes change and new technologies emerge.

With a focus on better collaboration and commitment to each other’s success, legal and IT departments will have no trouble bridging the gap. And while e-discovery may never be easy, it can be significantly less painful when all the right individuals collaborate at all the right stages.

Looking for a good place to start collaborating? Take the team to Relativity Fest—a great venue for sharing best practices, brainstorming, and kickstarting the conversation around your e-discovery and data management strategies.

Shana Kirchner is an education specialist at Relativity. With ten years of experience in the litigation support industry, she has helped create best practices and unique workflow solutions as a project manager and consultant.

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