In today’s litigious world of business, one of the most important relationships is between IT and Legal. These two departments must be in sync for any eDiscovery and/or policy management process to be successful. Both are necessary players and the business will not properly function without these two departments realizing they must work together, in order to succeed.

This article will provide some insight into how you can strengthen the relationship and collaboration between IT and Legal in a two part series. It will address the who, what, when, where, why and how regarding these important teams and the collaboration that can save you both time and money.  Let’s get started with why collaborate.

Why collaborate?

IT and Legal are two very distinct, yet related departments. Both have a specific tasks they must perform with relation to eDiscovery, yet both rely on the other for their collective success.

IT is the landlord of the data, but typically not the owner. Most often the data owner is a line of business within the company, however, just because IT is overseeing the data, does not mean they have carte blanche when it comes to the data lifecycle. Though there are instances where IT makes the rules and also enforces them, the typical model is of the enforcer only. IT will keep the data as long as they are instructed, and who makes these rules? Typically Legal.

Legal must ensure that your company is not only compliant with all federal, state, etc. rules and regulations, but they are also on the front line for protecting your company during litigation. They are constantly reviewing case law and the federal rules that help keep your company from spending an exorbitant amount in lawsuits.

You can see why working together is so important in this process.  But it is fraught with challenges that range from inexperience, for many, litigation isn’t a daily occurrence, to ignorance of one another’s core responsibilities within the overall process and finally to a sheer lack of time to coordinate the many activities that eDiscovery or litigation adds to the normal workload.  But there are steps that organizations can take to make collaboration between IT and legal a reality.

Where to start?

Though technology is wonderful and has enhanced our lives in so many ways, relationships are solidified face-to-face.

  1. Get the required players into a room and start building a relationship for success.
  2. Start discussing where you believe your responsibility ends and theirs begin.
  3. Have an open mind.
  4. Be aware that you are all on the same team.
  5. Express your concerns about tasks you assume are being managed.

Also, keep in mind that not all communication is verbal. In fact, studies have shown that communication is only 7 percent verbal. The remainder is body language (55 percent) and tone (38 percent). This helps reinforce why face-to-face is so important to start a relationship.

To remove confusion, exclusion, etc., it is best if a single point of contact (liaison) from each group is designated and these two people communicate to each other and their respective groups. Be sure that you have two personalities that can work well together, because they will lay the groundwork for the group relationships. These two people need to be encouraged to foster a relationship, so they can work better together. How do we set a strong foundation?

When it comes to building a foundation for your eDiscoevry process, it is important to make sure Legal is creating policies, etc. that are based in a technical reality. IT must offer a reality check to make sure that the policies can be enforced as they are written. This might very well be a give and take discussion that could involve several meetings to iron out. IT also brings important ideas to the table regarding data that Legal might not have addressed. This is especially true for email. As IT knows, not all email is created equal and it is important for Legal to understand the implications of the different types of email that exists. For instance, should messages and drafts be treated as equals? What about calendar entries? This is where IT can assist in helping Legal understand the underlying types of email. The same holds true for other data types as well. Once again, assumptions can be very dangerous and it is best to remove the gray and possible confusion.

A key area to address with respect to creating policies that keep your organization in compliance and the means to successfully implement these policies is a data inventory.  Knowing what data you have and where it is stored as well as who is accessing or extracting value form this data is critical.  This is the map that will direct all future activities and the core to saving time and money in the process.  Successfully developing a data inventory and then ensuring you can implement policies to manage it as well as provide the ability to quickly and easily search and collect data for processing and review is where technology comes into play.

In part two we will address the what and when of technology selection and implementation to ensure collaboration between IT and Legal. Stay tuned!


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