Most organizations are lagging in automating the tracking of legal holds. According to the “Legal Holds and Data Preservation Survey 2013,” 50% of organizations still track legal holds manually, while only one-third have implemented software for tracking.
The study conducted by Steinberg Group LLC surveyed 525 legal professionals responsible for overseeing the legal holds process, making it the largest study of its kind focused specifically on how organizations are handling legal data preservation.
Of additional interest is that 54% of the respondents feel their organizations are still at “at risk” regarding legal holds. These statistics indicate there may be an opportunity for information governance and records and information management (RIM) professionals in the legal hold process.
A key need during litigation is the rapid identification of records and information that are potentially relevant to the litigation at hand. The information governance and RIM professional should have a more comprehensive view of the organization’s information categories and locations than any other segment of the organization.
Information governance and RIM professionals are charged with understanding what information the organization relies on and how it interfaces with normal business processes. If RIM practices are put into place as a part of the organization’s routine business operations, it will be much easier to locate that information when needed for litigation. Solid policies and procedures that define the individuals’ responsibilities in handling information is the critical foundation for effective responses to legal holds.
Legal holds will undoubtedly require preservation of both active and inactive records. The RIM professional will know what terminology is used and can help implement the suspension of destruction for records affected by a legal hold.
Legal holds must be communicated to key custodians and, sometimes, to all employees. Organizations that don’t have legal hold tracking software can use their records coordinator network to effectively communicate legal hold information to the required parties.
If this is a new area for you, the following resources available from ARMA can increase your understanding of the litigation process, the importance of legal holds, and the potential roles that information management can play: