Opportunity: This 140 attorney firm with six offices wished to implement a comprehensive and effective Information Governance program. At the current time, the firm did not have an approved Records and Information Management policy, and therefore, had no established user expectations regarding the proper handling of electronic and paper records. Records existed in multiple locations in various formats with no ability to cull duplicative instances or apply consistent retention to official matters of record. As a result, all records were retained indefinitely in both electronic and physical forms (both on-site and off-site), exposing the firm and its clients to risk and compliance issues.
Solution: Mattern & Associates conducted a current state assessment which included interviewing key stakeholders; observing the firm’s overall records lifecycle workflow practices including new file openings, document tracking and file maintenance, document management system (DMS) and records management system (RMS) use, docketing, conflicts, file closing and off-site storage; reviewing any existing policies and procedures; analyzing the use of technology across all relevant functions and end users; and, creating a data map of where all documents resided (regardless of media).
Following this analysis, Mattern & Associates was able to benchmark the firm’s key service levels against industry best practice standards, provide a comparative breakdown of costs benchmarked against peer in-house and outsourced operations, and deliver best practice recommendations that included automating manual processes and workflow, improving records transaction efficiency, streamlining use of existing technology, reducing physical files, improving electronic file maintenance, and benchmarks regarding digital conversion versus paper storage for active and inactive records.
From Mattern’s benchmarks and recommendations, a policy was drafted, tailored for the firm’s use and to create its own retention schedules. User expectations were set, including training procedures and the standardization of file naming and document classification. A complete procedural document lifecycle was created for the handling of records from creation/receipt through disposition.
Results: Mattern is now assisting the firm with its off-site storage contract to dovetail into the overall program with an emphasis on permanent withdrawal and destruction allowances, with the ultimate goal of significantly reducing the firm’s off-site storage footprint and corresponding costs.
As part of the policy, retention schedules were set and approved by the firm’s in-house counsel. These retention schedules govern both electronic and paper records and were customized by practice area and document type. With the official record tracked in the DMS, and any remaining official paper records tracked in the firm’s RMS, the firm is now able to apply policy and ensure compliance in a defensible manner.
The firm is now in the position to purge both electronic and paper records according to policy. This has led to increased efficiency in locating electronic documents due to standardization, a decrease in the creation of paper sets, and the virtual elimination of new paper sent to off-site storage, with the exception of policy carve-outs requiring paper retention. Ultimately, the firm has significantly improved proper information governance over current clients’ records and substantially improved positioning for new client engagements where document handling procedures are increasingly scrutinized.