Records Management in the Legal SectorComing up with powerful litigation strategies depends on the ability of legal professionals to manage their data and records and to cull useful information from them. This is important for intelligent decision-making and also to stay competitive in the business. Lawyers need to sort through hundreds of terabytes of data when preparing for a case and traditional methods may not be sufficient to process all this information in a timely manner. That’s why law firms opt for professional services for transcription and to manage their legal documents.

Overview of Legal Records

The Washington State Bar Association has put down specific guidelines for client record retention and management. Client records are defined as those that come into possession of a lawyer as a result of representation of a client or records that the lawyer creates as a result of that representation. A typical client file may include:

  • Client documents given by the client to the lawyer or papers, such as medical records, the lawyer on the client’s behalf and expense
  • Documents the disposition of which is controlled by a protective order or other confidentiality
  • Miscellaneous material
  • Remaining material including electronically stored documents such as legal transcripts

Sub files in which documents are categorized would include correspondence, court records, financial records, intake form, interrogatories, leases/agreements, motions, notes, pleadings, and research, and miscellaneous items.

Bridging the Gap between Legal Record Managers and Lawyers

Proper records management should involve planning, description, documentation, and administration. All employees in the law firm should be provided with necessary training about the records management system. Lawyers should be well informed about the capturing, organizing, indexing, retention, storage, retrieval and destruction of the records in a client’s file.

With their busy schedules, lawyers assign the document review task to records managers. However, going through the digitized records and managing them has become a cumbersome and expensive process. Moreover, data security has become a big issue. A recent report points out that here have been more than 600 million breaches of personally identifiable information (PII), according to the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse. The article discusses an expert view on how record managers and lawyers can make the best of each other’s approaches.

  • Data management and prevention of security breach should be a central part of the strategy to safeguard personally available information. Every precaution should be taken to protect a client’s personal information.
  • Records managers use e-discovery to organize and categorize the entire gamut of information. Lawyers need to understand the need to organize even electronic documents and transcripts that are not relevant to the specific proceedings.
  • Each document should follow the schedule for retention (the minimum period of time by which documents should be maintained). Record managers should make lawyers understand the need to dispose of documents according to their retention schedule to avoid liabilities.
  • Record managers can help lawyers do cost-benefit analysis to measure the return on investment of their work by assessing the potential cost of an unexpected breach.
  • Record managers should show litigation teams how to manage and secure content on an ongoing basis.

Proper use of big data can help lawyers identify new opportunities, serve clients more efficiently, and evaluate performance. However, as legal documents and transcripts are shared across networks, they become vulnerable to theft and misuse. Litigation teams need to continue to work on imbibing best practices to safeguard, nurture and manage legal records.