Participating on the Global Information Governance Considerations for Law Firms task force was a terrific opportunity to learn about a complex and constantly changing topic. Very few aspects of information governance (IG) are not impacted when an organization creates and stores information in multiple countries. The first challenge our task force faced was defining the scope of the paper. There are many practical challenges an organization faces when implementing an IG program globally that often do not exist when operating in a single country, such as language barriers and cultural attitudes toward IG. We decided to focus on a few core challenges – retention, cross-border collaboration, privacy and data security, systems and data storage and information and device mobility.
Research into these topics quickly revealed why they pose such a challenge to IG professionals. Each country in which a firm does business of course has its own laws, regulations and ethics codes and these have a significant impact on everything from file transfers from one law firm to another, to records retention requirements to data storage restrictions. These are continually evolving and frequently inconsistent across countries forcing firms to be diligent in monitoring developments and flexible in adapting to new requirements. Countries’ cultural attitudes toward individuals’ right to privacy result in regulations that drive many of the challenges over data storage and cross border transfer with which firms must contend. During the weeks we worked on the report new developments and commentary were reported daily through various internet news services regarding the ongoing negotiations over the EU’s proposed data protection regulation and the accelerated implementation of Russia’s data protection law.
Due to the many different and inconsistent regulations across countries we realized there is no silver bullet or single best overall approach to global IG even for two law firms with the same global footprint. Rather than focusing on specific solutions, we instead highlighted what we felt were the major issues that law firms must consider and provided a roadmap through references and resources that firms can use to research these issues and develop protocols that are appropriate for their firm.
This approach and the end product itself were greatly influenced by the feedback obtained from the participants in the Law Firm IG Symposium held in late March, 2015. The participants, including many of the IG leaders in the law firm industry, reviewed drafts of task force submissions and then, over the course of two days, provided invaluable input from which our paper certainly benefited.
All four of this year’s reports, authored by law firm IG practitioners, are now available. Keep reading for valuable IG guidance, considerations and real-life examples: