Taming the Litigation Support Tiger – Mainstreaming ESI Governance and Security

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For too long litigation support has lived on the edge of law firm organization as the bastard child – somewhere between litigation practice and IT.  Litigation Support continues to be responsible for some of the most critical information and intellectual property of the law firm.  Rarely is litigation support given a seat at the executive table, or included in the firm’s strategic plan.  This must change for the simple reason that 80% of information trafficked across law firm infrastructure is litigation support related.

To address data security concerns CIO’s will need to include litigation support as part of the cross-collaborative team.  The CIO will need to assist litigation support in examining themselves and their data in order to fully address data security concerns.

Security Number One Concern for CIO’s

Managing data security is a CIO’s number one concern according to a 2012 AM Law poll.  If security is the greatest concern then CIOs must take a hard look at litigation support operations, its data organization and customer usage habits.  Here CIOs will find competing interests and a data nightmare challenge just waiting for some brave sole to tackle.

Litigation support transactions make up more than 80% of the information trafficked across the law firm’s network.  What can CIO’s do to mainstream litigation support?  To institute better governance over litigation support information?  What can be done to secure this mission critical information while still meeting client needs, and raising customer satisfaction levels?

How to Improve Security and Provide Exceptional Client Experience

To improve security over litigation support data, both client evidence and firm work product, CIOs must work closely with litigation support and records management to map and define the information – transmission flow, vulnerabilities, system requirements, file characteristics, RIM classification, value and usage.  With this information, the CIO and her team will be able to design an infrastructure system and security features that meet operational requirements as well as secure and protect this mission critical information, particularly as lawyers go more mobile.

To mainstream litigation support CIOs must consider these issues:

Centralization – Bringing litigation support data to a data center, thus increasing the security of the information, while improving overall life-cycle management.

Matter-management – Re-mediate litigation support data under a matter-management structure so that data may be properly classified, used/re-used, or disposed of in accordance with the firm’s records management policies and procedures.

Virtualization – Bringing higher and higher processor utilization to the data center, increasing the business importance and criticality of each physical server used by litigation support, which makes effective power and cooling even more vital to safeguard availability of this mission critical data.  The need for capacity management is greatest when there is change, changing server populations, varying power density, load migration both over time and in physical location – and the steady advance of new legal technologies and the pressure to deliver timely results persists.

Storage Management – Institute storage procedures that allow for management of data across hot, warm and cold spaces, as well as recovery for data that is no longer valued.

Records Management Procedures – Update records management policies and procedures to incorporate litigation support data – both electronic evidence belonging to clients and firm work product.

Visibility and Transparency – A fundamental requirement of any modern litigation support center is visibility and transparency into the complete inventory of data – electronic and physical.  In litigation support this means all versions of client data and work product, evidence, work-in-progress, results and legacy information. This facilitates quick resolution for identifying & solving any problem occurring in the data set.  Fundamentally, litigation support requires visibility and transparency to effectively serve clients.

Information Integration – With evidence management and visibility into data being two key considerations for litigation support, the need for integration between intelligent physical infrastructure management and enterprise management systems portraying the full availability and usefulness of information is intensifying.

Resource Balancing – Infrastructure is provided at the right time in the right volume at the right price, and that it is used in the most efficient manner. The critical success factors are providing accurate capacity forecasts, and appropriate capacity to meet litigation support business needs.  The challenge is that data arrives without warning at 5pm on Friday in litigation support with a request to review by Monday morning.  Having a scalable infrastructure to handle day to day requests as well as spikes is critical to litigation support client satisfaction.

Project Management – Develop an effective program and workflow that is designed to better care for and manage litigation support information.

Mobility – Lawyers are constantly on the go and with the capabilities of smartphones and tablets don’t spend near as much time behind a desk.  Planning a mobile strategy for lawyers will necessarily involve how to deliver litigation support content to the device.  Mobile search, as the predominant consumer utility on smartphones, and sideways traffic (links shared through social media and email that are primarily accessed via a mobile device) are together responsible for the majority of all mobile web traffic.  Determine what other content lawyers access while on the go – does that include document review?  If it does remember that mobility is about behavior, not technology – consider how the lawyer will spend their time before making decisions on where to focus and invest.

Conclusion

To address security concerns CIOs will need to mainstream litigation support.  This means developing an overall infrastructure strategy coupled with a data placement strategy and detailed file plan for litigation support.  The strategy and plan will need to address litigation support’s information life-cycle, its use and value nuances.

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