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Annual report: social media bringing IT and legal together

Recommind's third annual IT-Legal survey shows increased focus on social media, internal investigations and regulatory requests. In contrast with last year’s study, this year’s indicates that the two departments are forging a more productive relationship as they work together to manage the most sensitive data in the enterprise.

According to this year's report, which surveyed senior IT managers at enterprises averaging 17,500 employees, technical knowledge of ediscovery is improving across the board, and legal and IT departments are coming together to solve new dilemmas posed by internal investigations, regulatory requests and the skyrocketing use of social media.

The state of the relationship
Overall, the survey suggests that the state of the relationship between legal and IT is holding steady, with 52.1% rating it “good” or “very good,” compared to 54.5% in 2010. Drilling down into the details, however, respondents reported a number of positive trends.
Both IT and legal are making ediscovery a higher priority.

    •    66.9% report that legal and IT are meeting to collaborate or strategize at least once per quarter, compared to 48.4% in 2010.
    •    Only 26.3% said IT considered ediscovery a “low” or “very low” priority, down from 39.1% in 2010.
    •    Only 17.6% said that legal rated ediscovery a “low” or “very low” priority, compared to 29.1% in 2010.

IT staff are increasingly confident in their own grasp of ediscovery technology, as well as that of their legal colleagues.

    •    66.1% of respondents said they understood the technical requirements of ediscovery “pretty well” or “very well,” as opposed to 52.4% in 2010.
    •    43.7% said their legal department understood the technical requirements of ediscovery “pretty well” or “very well,” compared to 35.3% in 2010.
    •    Only 21.8% said their legal department understood the technical requirements of ediscovery “not at all” or “not too well,” as opposed to 35.3% in 2010.

Nevertheless, “not understanding/respecting the technical complexities of e-discovery” remained by far IT’s top frustration in working with the legal department (35.9%), as it was last year. And tellingly, asked what the legal department would pinpoint as its top frustration when working with IT, respondents most often said, “trying to influence decisions traditionally made by legal” (26.7%). Last year’s top choice, “lack of legal knowledge,” ranked only fourth out of five this year (17.2%).

Why IT and legal work together
A new section of the survey focusing on areas of IT-legal interaction revealed social media as a clear up-and-coming priority.

    •    30% of respondents reported that the IT and legal departments at their companies collaborate on “ediscovery involving social media” at least once per quarter, suggesting that despite its novelty, social media is already playing a significant role in ediscovery at many large organizations.
    •    34.7% of respondents said IT and legal collaborated on “crafting or implementing social media policies” for the first time in 2011, and 24.5% cited “ediscovery involving social media”  — the number-one and number-two results, respectively.
    •    Looking ahead to 2012, more respondents expected to collaborate for the first time on social media policies (26.9%) and social media ediscovery (26.9%) than on any other activities.

Company-initiated investigations were the top overall reason for IT-legal collaboration — a result possibly linked to labor disputes, which tend to increase in times of economic turmoil. 

    •    58.2% of respondents said they collaborated on “ediscovery for internal, company-initiated investigations” at least once per quarter, surpassing ediscovery for active litigation (49.1%), other regulatory compliance (46.4%) and crafting or implementing data retention policies (42.7%).
    •    24.5% of respondents cited internal investigations as the second-most-common new reason for IT-legal collaboration (tied with ediscovery involving social media).

“The financial crisis of 2008 was a watershed moment for many companies, in terms of increasing awareness of information risk and the need for information governance,” said Recommind VP of marketing Craig Carpenter. “At that point, the IT and legal departments had to figure out how to work together — there was no other option. While the IT-legal relationship has sometimes been rocky, our third annual survey found encouraging signs that it’s improving. That said, the two will need to do even better over the next few years. Not only will corporate data continue growing at an exponential rate, but the two departments will face new challenges around social media and internal investigations that will force them to be quicker and more proactive than ever before. Advanced ediscovery, governance and early case analysis software can lift a great deal of the burden off their shoulders, but ultimately there’s no substitute for effective collaboration between IT and legal staff.”