Information governance, or IG, is the effective management of any and all information that an enterprise creates, stores or transmits, particularly in digital format. In 2021 this includes everything from the project on the office desktop, email that’s accessed from a personal mobile device to social media conversations and wearable technology. Having a successful IG plan in place can be a tremendous benefit to any organization. Yet, IG is more than just a workplace productivity tool; establishing and maintaining IG compliance is critical to general counsel as well, for five very important reasons.
1. Assurance of Meeting Document Retention Guidelines
One of the motivations for putting information governance in place at all is to ensure that counsel is not backed into the position of representing clients who may have violated any applicable document retention guidelines. IG policy should cover the entire lifecycle of any intellectual property, from inception to deep storage, protecting projects and information at every stage from hazards such as data corruption or unauthorized access.
2. Streamlined eDiscovery
The discovery process is typically the most involved and time-consuming (not to mention the most expensive) aspect of any litigation action. In the event of legal proceedings that do necessitate ediscovery, having an information governance policy already in place allows general counsel to more easily find applicable evidence and data, granting a tremendous savings on billing to clients as well as limiting lengthy time investment for counsel.
3. Clear Chain of Custody
When establishing a chain of custody for any file, document or email, information governance removes any doubts the court and opposing counsel may hold over the possibility of alteration or tampering, either during copying or analysis. Case loss to something as simple as mishandling of digital evidence can be devastating for general counsel, and is largely preventable with comprehensive IG.
4. Defensible, Repeatable Processes
With an information governance policy in place that is already well-established and fully documented, general counsel is far less challenged in proving defensible, repeatable processes during litigation. An established chain of custody contributes to this stability, as does tracking data lifecycles to ensure that any document retention guidelines are being met.
5. Flag Potential Hot Spots Prior to Litigation
Considering the possibility for legal concerns while developing information governance policy helps identify potential hot spots. For example, email correspondence delineating contract negotiations would be invaluable in a wrongful termination suit, while an intellectual property case could be resolved simply by presenting applicable digital documentation in court. Complying with IG policies ensures that any necessary documentation and data will be available to counsel in a short amount of time, and with a minimum of scrambling.
This article originally in appeared on the TERIS blog in December, 2013. This is a revised and revisited version of the original article as the topic is as relevant now as it was 7 years ago.