Creative sourcing for law firm information governance


Law firm leaders are under constant pressure to reduce cost, increase lawyer productivity and expand market share. This report discusses creative and imaginative ways to leverage existing resources to achieve these goals.

August 9, 201712 mins
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Executive Summary

As has been pointed out in an earlier LFIGs publication, law firm executive leaders are under significant pressure to reduce cost, increase lawyer productivity and expand market share.[1] At the same time, the executive leader juggles a variety of competing projects in which the firm must invest in order to achieve long-term cost savings, or to comply with a steadily increasing number of regulations either pointed directly at law firms or imposed on the firm by highly regulated clients. Information security is the best example of this: the firm holds certain types of information that makes it directly subject to specific international, federal or state privacy laws, but it also holds information on behalf of highly-regulated clients who impose their legal requirements on outside counsel as a requirement for their continued business. Investing in a robust information security environment is no longer an option, but a necessary element of law firm operations. In addition, managing the firm’s compliance with its portfolio of client-imposed information management parameters is itself a challenging endeavor, and no less important given the relationships at stake.

Executive leaders focus on several areas of the firm to provide the cost savings needed to fund critical projects and reduce the firm’s operating costs. These include staff compensation, real estate and other capital expenses, contracts for the purchases of goods and services, and unnecessary internal programs. In addition, executive leaders also look for innovative solutions to manage costs in two areas that have a direct impact on Information Governance (IG) and the effort to implement an IG program.

Processes and Systems

Streamlined business processes and the efficient use of technology are two ways that firms can lower cost and enhance lawyer productivity. Many have recently engaged in a variety of efforts, such as Six Sigma and other similar concepts, to re-engineer the ways in which lawyers and staff work. At the same time, firms are reluctant to invest in new systems unless they are absolutely necessary. Instead, executive leaders challenge staff to find creative ways to use systems already in place to achieve necessary goals.

From an Information Governance perspective, many firms’ executive leaders understand that the tipping point whereby lawyers and staff rely almost exclusively on electronic information, including documents and email, has arrived. They know that the lawyer’s ability to quickly create, store and find critical digital content is essential to lawyer productivity and sustained client relationships. They realize that change is needed, involving new ways of using the firm’s information management systems as well as refining the information management habits of lawyers and staff.

As the volume and types of digital information expand and budgets remain tight, agencies will find it more challenging to meet government requirements. Agencies will need to make smart and highly-strategic decisions about how to store and access data, to ensure that information is protected for the long term. These decisions will provide the agility and insights needed to keep pace with changing business, legal, and compliance obligations.

"Creativity…Consists largely of rearranging what we know in order to find out what we don’t know. Hence, to think creatively, we must be able to look afresh as what we normally take for granted."

-George Kneller


In the wake of the technology transformation, many traditional support jobs have changed significantly, or have become obsolete. Law firms struggle to redefine the role of the legal secretary, and many back office jobs in technology, accounting and records management have drastically changed as a result of automation. Although firms have downsized, many still retain staff who have a deep understanding of the firm and its clients, but who are often underutilized. Their retention by the firm depends on their acquisition of new skills and tasks that allow them to continue adding value.

As will be seen in this report, the Information Governance leader can offer many creative and imaginative ways to leverage existing resources that help the executive leader achieve his or her goals of lowered cost, greater productivity, and compliance. Through the use of planning and a defined roadmap of projects, the IG leader can distinguish between projects that can be completed by using staff and systems in place, and those that will require an allocation of funding. The result will be a faster transition to IG, new skills for underutilized staff, and systems that are used to their fullest capacity.