The Recall Blog: Inside Information Management
legal hold

Three Tips to Minimize Legal Holds Impeding IG

Wednesday, December 23 rd, 2015Comments: Comments Off

When the general counsel of an organization is notified of pending legal action, it is common for them to receive orders that all relevant information related to the impending matter be put on hold, meaning it cannot be destroyed, disposed of or tampered with. The loss or destruction of information on hold in preparation of legal action carries hefty fines for companies or an unfavorable ruling, which is why it is pertinent that they have a structured process that can be managed directly by Legal in place for dealing with information in legal holds.  However, in a many organizations there is not a structured process.

Due to non-structured processes many business users are forced, through threat of punishment, to take responsibility for managing the hold.  As a result, they take one of two approaches, neither of which are beneficial. The conventional approach is to have an employee sort through and identify all relevant content associated with the matter and then store it somewhere where it will not be destroyed. However, this approach impedes productivity, as employees spend valuable time away from their core tasks to sort and secure information. Further, if the pending case is dropped, the process results in a substantial waste of resources and adds no value to the company whatsoever.

The second approach that many business users employ is the “delete nothing method”. Business users justify this action by thinking if they do not throw anything away, nothing can be lost and therefore, they can’t be penalized. But by now it is well know that not deleting information leads to holding on to documents that no longer need to be stored, which opens the business up to non-compliance and security risks.

So, how should companies go about managing a legal hold process that ensures that they have a strong IG method in place?

  • Provide Legal the ability to manage all legal hold information internally: The legal department or compliance office should be in charge of managing all information related to legal holds. Individual employees should not be responsible for searching, extracting and securing information when there are such high stakes attached to information being collected. Companies should procure the tools necessary for the legal and compliance offices to search, identify and hold all content on their own and have visibility into what is being held at all times.
  • Have a system that allows for visibility and management of information on hold: A fool-proof system is one that can put information on hold without interrupting the business user. It will also allow Legal to see what is on hold and the case or matter that it is associated with. Equally important to placing items on hold is the capability to easily remove the hold or close the case entirely.
  • The ability to easily lift legal holds: Very rarely does the Legal department communicate that a hold can be lifted. From an information governance standpoint, releasing the hold is as important as applying it. To enforce the proper retention, it is critical to have a point of contact or an automated process that informs the rest of the organization the legal matter has been closed and the hold is no longer active.

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