Reducing Risks in a Climate of Constant Change, Part 2
August 7, 2012
During discovery, your general counsel needs vital records quickly to reduce risk exposure and get the best results. Here’s how to prepare for “need it yesterday” requests.
Your company is probably blogging, chatting and tweeting online daily–and it’s all good: These are the new tools of business. The trick is to make sure you manage your risk exposure in the process.
You may not see the big red bull’s-eye, but each of your organization’s records—from archived paper portfolios to tweets and everything in between—is a potential target in a legal proceeding.
Although this has always been the case, the newer types of records your company generates only serve to increase your risk exposure. Your marketing folks may be holding chat sessions on your website, or maybe they’re posting “real, live case studies” on social media sites and promoting them with 140-character messages to thousands of prospects each day.
It’s all good: These are the new tools of business. The trick is making sure you manage your company’s risk exposure in the process. Consider these facts:
- Most midsize firms have been exposed to at least one multimillion-dollar lawsuit (and maybe even many).
- Larger companies can easily spend $5 million or more annually on litigation.
Just as a case in point, patent litigation has increased by 75 percent since 1995. To protect your company from risk, your general counsel needs easy, targeted access to physical and electronic information.
Respond, Don’t React, to Risks
How quickly can your general counsel leap into action to shield your business from potentially enormous fines and associated expenses? The answer depends on how well you’ve prepared up front.
It’s wise to stay on top of your company‘s corporate records: Maintain your retention schedule, keep an inventory of information and records, preserve chain of custody and meet applicable federal and local regulations. By taking these steps, you’re helping your legal team minimize risk exposure when discovery comes knocking.
The Role of Compliance
Developing policies to satisfy federal, state and industry regulations—and adhering to those policies throughout your firm’s day-to-day activities—can minimize your company’s overall risk. It will also smooth the way when you face a discovery request.
Begin by assessing what you have now and applying that knowledge to an enterprise-wide implementation plan that includes:
- A legally credible retention schedule
- A compliance program that’s formally communicated across the company
- An ongoing data security program that ensures accessibility and integrity
- Routine audits of your compliance program
Take the Reins
A practical approach to litigation preparedness can ensure that your company has the resources it needs to deliver an accurate, legally defensible discovery request, without undue exposure and within a predetermined budget. Here’s how to begin.
- Simplify your document workflow by automating certain processes and taking governance and discovery processes into account.
- Consider classifying electronic records to your retention schedule and consistently applying policies to reduce the risk of their being either purposely or inadvertently destroyed (also called “spoliation.”) This will help you predict—and control—burgeoning lawsuit costs.
- Employ “data mapping” techniques for managing electronically stored information (ESI). Allocate discovery resources in advance; doing so eases hassles for your general counsel when the time comes to access critical information and also leaves more time and energy to build an effective defense.
Who’s In Control?
When it comes to managing your company’s information, put yourself in the driver’s seat by taking these steps:
- Keep pace with compliance news. Rules and regulations are constantly changing. Staying on top of them will help reduce the pressure.
- Build a retention schedule. A sensible and legally credible schedule should address how long your organization needs to retain each type of record.
- Strive for interdepartmental integration. It takes a village—or at least the collaboration of IT, HR, finance and other key departments—to implement a successful retention schedule. Such alliances can bolster your compliance effort while also speeding discovery requests and mitigating overall litigation costs.
- Address legacy physical records. If you’re implementing a retention schedule or updating an existing one, you’ll need a process for reclassifying existing records. This includes recalculating destruction dates as necessary.
- Identify digitization opportunities for high-risk documents. Carefully select documents for digitization that could be valuable for litigation (such as contracts). Then create a structured, easily accessible environment with a retention policy for their proper storage and retrieval.
- Ensure a secure chain of custody. A trusted partner can provide you with the information, access and security you need for peace of mind.
- Keep an eye on backup procedures. Ensure that your backup operations are consistent with your retention policies so records aren’t being stored longer than necessary.
Your general counsel knows that to win a lawsuit, he or she needs the best possible strategy. Working with a partner to help create the right kind of litigation readiness program is the best defense you can prepare.
Iron Mountain Suggests: Always Stay One Step Ahead
The best process for responding to a discovery challenge will direct information management costs and drive cross-departmental collaboration among your legal, compliance, IT and information security teams. Consider the powers of the Iron Mountain Enterprise Discovery Suite to help you:
- Develop and implement a retention schedule
- Reclassify your existing records to their most current schedule
- Develop policies for electronic records, including implementation strategies
- Implement data mapping
- Streamline your company's processes so you can efficiently and cost-effectively respond to investigations and litigation, while also overcoming key compliance and discovery obstacles
- Minimize your organization's legal risks and more accurately predict future discovery costs
- Address the specifics of your records management needs with advanced technologies and hands-on expertise
Do you have questions about information management? Read additional Knowledge Center stories on this subject, or contact Iron Mountain’s Information Management team. You’ll be connected with a knowledgeable product and services specialist who can address your specific challenges.
Reducing Risks in a Climate of Constant Change, Part 1
The Payoffs of Proactive Information Management
Records Management: Creating a Social Media Success Story