Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld has adopted FileTrail GPS to help manage the way it retains, stores and ultimately destroys its data. The move – notably underpinned by a significant cultural change piece – is being led by assistant general counsel for information governance, Christopher Egan, who joined Akin Gump from the US Department of Justice in November 2017.
The Am Law 100 firm will store its information governance policies and outside counsel guidelines in FileTrail and apply them to control the way information is managed across the firm’s data repositories, including its NetDocuments document management system.
In addition, Akin Gump – an Aderant client – is integrating FileTrail with other business systems to enforce client-specific retention and disposition requirements — from the inception of a new matter to the appropriate period of time after it closes.
Speaking to Legal IT Insider, FileTrail’s president Darrell Mervau (pictured right) said: “Chris was brought in to develop and extend Akin Gump’s information governance programme and the heads of the board support his efforts. His remit was to look at cultural change and then find a product to fit and manage that: that’s when we started talking to him and he said that FileTrail was the only tool fitting the firm’s needs.
“Firms need to gather all these different data feeds from across the firm’s internal policies and it’s all feeding into FileTrail GPS.”
Akin Gump formally selected FileTrail in December and a data migration is currently underway. It has created a group of around five or six lawyers who are working with FileTrail to look at Akin Gump’s information governance surrounding matter mobility and outbound and inbound lateral attorney moves.
Perhaps the most interesting thing is how the firm is creating a change of culture in the way information is handled in the firm. Lawyers have traditionally regarded documents and data as very much theirs to file and store where they like. At Akin, data management training is now a part of the onboarding of new employees, who are informed that data must be managed according to the firm’s policies and outside counsel guidelines. Mervau said: “They are building that culture as to where the data needs to reside. You can’t just put up a flag and say ‘this is mine to keep or destroy’, data has to be managed according to the firm’s policies.”
Firms also regularly fail to destroy documentation in accordance with their clients’ guidelines and Mervau says: “That part of the culture needs to change. You need to be managing information, you can’t just keep it.”
Once retention periods have expired, FileTrail triggers workflows for the review, approval and disposition of specific records. It also automatically captures an audit trail of all activity and decisions related to client matter files.
Akin Gump uses Intapp Walls – policies in Walls are synchronised with FileTrail through its Wall Connector.
“In a digital environment, information is saved in so many different places, it is no longer practical or efficient to rely on individuals to manually track document classification, retention and disposition,” said Egan (pictured left). “FileTrail is a core part of our vision to automate controls on records retention and monitor compliance with firm policies and client requirements on an ongoing basis. We value the FileTrail approach in providing visibility across multiple systems, as well as the responsiveness and support of its development team.”
InOutsource, a consulting firm with in-depth expertise in law firm information management, is working with Akin Gump on its FileTrail implementation, as well as data mapping and data cleansing.
Update: We originally said in error that Akin Gump is swapping out LegalKEY.