Building the foundations for keeping legal data safe

Information management is vital to the daily operations of any law firm or legal department in Europe. The policies set and the responsibilities assigned for managing procedures are essential parts of the role of a Records Manager and crucial to ensure organisations, whether it’s a law firm or larger corporation, are able to operate efficiently and effectively, meeting regulatory requirements and staying compliant. However, far too many of these organisations jump in at the deep end, adopting the latest legaltech without having the fundamentals of information management in place.

As Christiane Müller-Haye, tech enthusiast and Director of Continental Europe, Phoenix Business Solutions, explains, behind every legaltech initiative should be a specific business case, with the fundamentals of information management at the heart of the organisation.

The impact of GDPR

Modern information management is about much more than minimising risk. Effective records management practices help organisations to be more innovative, customer-focused and agile. But as the rate of information creation continues to grow and the need to be compliant increases with it, new techniques are required.

The introduction of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in May 2018 was a signal for organisations to sit up and pay attention to how their data was being used across departments. In order to keep the risk away from a firm, organisations need to know not only which documents, records and matter they hold and are able to store, but which they legally should no longer hold.

Yet, although the recognition is there, many organisations are still not following through and putting document management practices in place, before an unexpected regulatory investigation finds that matter that should have been deleted, is still being stored. And, not to mention the risk of a data breach and the repercussions as a result, including stolen data, unhappy customers and a negative reputation.

Taking the first step

Organisations need to ensure they have the right tools in place, at the right time, in order to succeed; the same way that a world-class footballer wouldn’t attempt to score the winning goal in the newest trainers to hit the market without making sure they fit properly first. However, most organisations are feeling the pressure to become a fully digitised enterprise, to gain insights from both their own and client data and enable better business decisions. But, applying new and intelligent automation tools such as AI or machine learning won’t and can’t provide results if the foundation isn’t there, with no structure or transformation strategy behind it. Understanding why your organisation needs an information management system is essential to become not only efficient, but safe.

The first step organisations need to take is to understand and analyse what data they hold, where it is stored and if it can be easily classified. Once the information has been identified and analysed, organisation-wide instructions should be put in place to clarify how certain types of data should be handled. This process can increase in efficiency with the help of a Records Manager, who can ensure the system is adopted and adhered to by the entire organisation. Additionally, it’s vital that once the process is mapped and defined, a clear description of duties and objectives is agreed and the behaviour of people in the organisation is continuously monitored to ensure standards are maintained and followed even after implementation.

Technology as an investment

Data security is inherently important to a law firm or legal department. Not having a secure information management system in place is a privacy risk; a risk that no organisation should be willing to take. Far too many organisations deploy technology solutions as a quick fix, without thinking of the bigger organisational strategy or the implications the technology could have in the future; how does the technology need to be maintained, and is it something that will really help the organisation’s customers to work more efficiently, smarter and safer? Organisations must think about what the right technology is for them; a smart technology investment can drive a business forward and with the right business case, has the best chance of being worthwhile and profitable.

The attraction of new and exciting legaltech is undeniable, and being able to offer clients something different will always be tempting. But before taking the leap, it is essential for organisations to understand the data within their organisation and how to use it efficiently, smartly and safely. And being safe doesn’t just keep an organisation safe from data leaks and breaches, but for suppliers, it means that they are able to prove to their customers and potential customers that certain safety and security standards are adhered to, bringing significant competitive advantage and the opportunity to become a first-class supplier right to the forefront.

After all, compliance is key, so ensuring the right document management system is initially in place to enable documents to be properly stored, structured and classified, will enable your firm or legal team to be efficient and safe, to reap benefits in the long-term.