Sherpa recently hosted a webinar on the topic of “Information Management is Key to Litigation Preparedness.”  As a co-presenter, I thought it would be helpful to offer a summary for interested readers.

Many organizations struggle to respond to requests from litigation, subpoenas, governmental inquiries or even internal investigations.   There may be many reasons for this, but often companies don’t know where to start as the processes associated with many of these crucial tasks may be non-existent or poorly documented.   In addition, these challenges in preparedness are often tied to poor information management practices.

Since many companies grow organically, they tend to scrape by with basic tools and procedures (often implemented ad hoc to ‘get the job done’ without a view towards the future).  These organizations, which can be of any size, end up with a hodgepodge of systems and no coherent  way to  regulate, classify, extract, or search vast stores of data in a timely manner.  This chaos causes bottlenecks in everything from routine IT tasks to outside requests for information and legal proceedings.   Processes to issue ligation holds, review data or even simply answer questions on locations and volume of data are often not streamlined, nor can they be audited.  This makes critical, time-sensitive obligations (legal or otherwise) costly, stressful and potentially disruptive to day-to-day business.   These negative consequences can be even more damaging if they include lost business, adverse court decisions or government sanctions.

So what is a company to do?  The first thing is to establish or strengthen the basic information management framework around electronically stored information (ESI). This means an organization should be able to document and have procedures in place to:

• Identify where data resides
• Understand how data is created, stored and used
• Establish effective policies to control and safeguard data
• Selectively retain, access or search data

With these steps in place, many critical processes fall into line.  Among other benefits, answering requests for information, and in turn, litigation preparedness becomes so much easier.

No one wants to go through litigation – it’s unpleasant and expensive. Nevertheless, it is a reality of doing business. For an organization to effectively respond to legal action, they should be able to accomplish basic steps of legal discovery (and other crucial data requests) by creating the following:

• Litigation Response Team
• Litigation Profile
• Detailed Data Map
• Critical Policies (e.g. Retention, Social Media)
• Electronic Discovery Process
• Legal Hold Process

There is much more to this topic than can be covered in this summary. For further information, you can delve into the accompanying whitepaper and take a look at the solutions and resources Sherpa Software has available to help you address the most critical aspects of information management.