IT And Legal Make A Great Team. Yeah, Right.

While technological challenges abound in e-discovery, IT's biggest hurdle may be getting in-house attorneys to meet them halfway.

Andrew Conry Murray, Director of Content & Community, Interop

September 26, 2008

2 Min Read

While technological challenges abound in e-discovery, IT's biggest hurdle may be getting in-house attorneys to meet them halfway.On the TV show Alias, field agent Sydney Bristow always worked closely with über-geek Marshall Flinkman, who augmented her talents for disguise and ass-kicking with gadgets and hacking tips.

I'd always imagined that IT and in-house attorneys would have a similarly close relationship when it comes to electronic discovery. After all, IT has the technical skills to find and produce the electronic evidence that the attorneys rely on to prosecute or defend a case.

Turns out that just like Alias, my picture of this relationship was fiction.

Earlier this week I spoke with an IT professional at a large U.S. utility company whose job is to facilitate e-discovery efforts between IT and the legal department. Her job is to collect information from custodians and get it to the attorneys.

This year alone she's collected evidence in 10 to 15 matters, and has worked on many other cases that haven't required production of evidence.

But when I asked her if there was a close-knit relationship between IT and legal, she said "It's the Grand Canyon."

"They are intelligent people," she says of her counterparts in the counsel's office, "but the frame of mind they have is computers aren't something they need to think about. Once you start talking about the technical side, they get that look in their eyes like 'I don't know what you're talking about.' "

That's a shame, because IT also must rely on the expertise of the legal folks to ensure they are properly collecting and preserving information.

For instance, this IT expert manages the practice of self-collection, in which custodians gather relevant information. But self-collection also can be fraught with danger. Custodians may overlook critical information, or hide or destroy it to protect themselves. More likely, they may alter critical metadata in the collection process -- something that opposing counsel or a prickly judge could raise hell about.

The IT pro says that if IT and legal were more tightly coupled, they could work together to address such problems. "They would know more about this stuff and understand the need at the beginning to say 'Here's why self-collection is inadequate, here's the precedents why.' " From there, IT could find the right tools for the job to meet appropriate legal standards.

If your organization is involved in legal discovery, do IT and legal team up like super spies, or are they separated by a wide gulf? Let us know.

About the Author(s)

Andrew Conry Murray

Director of Content & Community, Interop

Drew is formerly editor of Network Computing and currently director of content and community for Interop.

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