Bridging the Gap Between Legal and IT

5/18/2018 5:00:00 AM

Legal and IT

In today’s data-driven professional environment, the use of information is integral for making critical business decisions. Companies inevitably require the storage and evaluation of data to conduct business.

This also comes with its own hurdles as there are many legal implications in how a company’s information technology (IT) is constructed to handle such data to ensure its safety.

As legal and IT converge, challenges may arise due to organizational structures, lines of reporting, competing priorities, and differing work/communication styles.

However, in order for an organization to operate efficiently while staying compliant with the many regulations around data governance, IT and legal departments can no longer remain siloed.

Here’s how you can bridge the gap between these two functions in your organization:

Understand the difference in communication styles

Legal professionals and IT teams often operate with quite different mindsets.

While legal professionals tend to think more iteratively, IT personnel tend to work in a more linear and task-driven manner. To successfully communicate with each other, both legal and IT need to understand the context from the other’s perspective.

Legal professionals should ensure proper hand-off of information and that the right people are engaged. IT teams would benefit from decoding essential technical terms into language that even the least tech-savvy attorney can appreciate.

Efforts can be made to avoid jargon in all communications. Management should encourage a culture in which questions are valued; allowing each party to explain terms specific to their expertise to avoid miscommunication and costly errors.

Gain leadership support on new initiatives

New IT projects often mean a shake-up of existing processes, which could face resistance from the legal professionals who are accustomed to a certain working order.

It’s therefore critical that leadership, such as the CIO and General Counsel, remain involved in the process and facilitate seamless communication between the IT and legal teams. Showing support for the project, e.g., by engaging in conversation and explaining the critical benefits of increasing proficiency for the company as a whole.

Collaborate on data governance

Businesses are generating massive amounts of data and there is an increasing number of law and regulations to ensure the safety of consumer data. From the use of big data and cloud computing to AI and blockchain technologies, data is routinely involved in many business decisions.

IT and legal teams need to collaborate carefully to ensure that the collection, transit, and storage of data is secure and compliant with the latest information governance regulations.

However, it’s not always easy for the IT team to interpret the verbiage in these laws to make sure the company’s data strategy is compliant. It is important for both the legal and IT teams to have someone who can interpret the language of the other department to ensure that legal requirements are translated into implementable IT strategies.

In addition, it may be beneficial to implement an overarching data management strategy to establish the framework, objectives, and compliance rules -- identifying key decision-makers in roles such as CTO, legal counsel, privacy officer, compliance manager, and information governance manager.

Next, legal and IT need to make collective decisions on how to incorporate progressive technology solutions with an eye on the legal implications of data storage, usage, and management strategies.

IT’s input is important when considering the day-to-day operational needs so you can address all of the “real life” use cases before it’s too late to change course without sizable cost implications.

Provide education on the legal discovery (eDiscovery) process

The legal discovery process has become a mainstream issue for many IT departments.

In many organizations, the collection and storage of data aren’t centralized. Legal professionals still rely on ad-hoc, fragmented methods to piece together data and information.

This seemingly elongated method tends to increase the cost of eDiscovery processes and may impact the accuracy and reliability of your data.

For example, if you depend on emails archives, you’re likely to miss critical information while metadata can be altered and the chain of custody can be impaired. If your legal team needs to access data from multiple sources, they may have to spend an enormous amount of time and resources to parse through emails and files, eliminate duplicates, and verify the accuracy of the information.

To avoid errors and inefficiencies in the eDiscovery process, legal departments need to outline the requirements for IT teams so the right technology can be introduced to handle varying complexities of the process.

Identifying the right IT tools, which requires the collaboration between legal and IT departments, is critical in making the legal discovery process reliable, efficient, and affordable.

Facilitating a shared understanding

To bridge the gap between legal and IT, it’s critical to establish shared objectives, identify clear communication channels, and understand the priorities of each department.

Today’s complex business environment requires cross-departmental collaboration to ensure efficiencies and accuracy in executing a data strategy. It’s, therefore, important that leadership -- such as CEOs, CIOs, and legal counsel -- are onboard to spearhead the effort.


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