The Typical Approach to Handling Information and Why it Doesn’t Work
Records and Information Management (RIM), a key component of information governance programs, is often something that companies put in place after being stung with costly e-discovery orders. However, many forward-thinking companies put RIM programs in place for more positive reasons—because it makes good business sense and facilitates e-discovery if and when it occurs.
The Typical Approach to Handling Information
The most likely scenario is that information relevant to the matter is widely dispersed across the firm. Absent a RIM Program, the company may have designated places on their networks for information storage, but may not have any policies regarding the management of electronic information. This results in each person determining what information they will store and how and where they will store it. If this is the case for electronic information, it is most often true regarding paper documents.
Furthermore, in cases where information exists in both paper and electronic formats, there is no designation as to which is the company’s “official” record. The result can be information chaos—the business may come to a grinding halt while the company’s personnel wade through thousands of documents to find the information responsive to the discovery request.
The Wrong Approach to Records Management
Another tendency of most organizations is to save information indefinitely. Most individuals keep their electronic documents forever if they can, unless forced to delete information because of space limitations. In addition, when backing up the organization’s computers, the IT department may keep the backup media indefinitely. Both actions may have consequences impacting the organization’s discovery obligations.
When a firm becomes aware of an impending lawsuit, a natural reaction is to clamp down and try to preserve everything, including all information in all formats, and sort it out later. From a legal standpoint, it is clear that this is not necessary.
The fact is, the more information an organization retains, the more information it potentially exposes to discovery in litigation. The decreasing costs of storage media, as hard drives become larger and less expensive, are directly countered by the costs to review that information in a lawsuit. The Sedona Conference, an electronic discovery think tank, estimated the costs of review of 1 gigabyte of data at $32,000 (assuming review costs of $200 per hour).
I will explore this topic in greater detail in a white paper that will be available soon.