What is the state of your records?

Risk and regulatory and compliance needs rank among the top concerns of Chief Legal Officers—and so to, of law firms. Law firms possess vast stores of electronic and hard copy client information, going back years, sitting in vaults with various vendors all over the country or on electronic records management systems (RMS) and document management systems (DMS).

Would your firm’s on- and off-site records situation pass a client audit with flying colors?

Evaluate your Records Department

A multi-faceted approach to managing records is essential. Below are a few areas to consider along with some vital questions to ask to help point your firm in the right direction. Any review of a firm’s records operations needs to start with evaluating the records department. Without the right people, the tools won’t matter—and the same holds true, conversely. As such, firms should be asking themselves questions like:

  1. Are we appropriately staffed (from a headcount as well as a knowledge-base perspective)?
  2. Are we providing our records department with the right tools, such as the appropriate RMS and DMS?
  3. Are these tools being utilized?
  4. Are our RMS and DMS compatible?
  5. Is our records department able to accurately interface with our off-site records provider to ensure accurate accounting of our records?

Evaluate your 3rd party providers

Depending on the nature of your firm, different providers may suit your needs better. It is not always the right answer to go with the incumbent provider, nor is it always the right answer to change providers. Firms need to prioritize costs, services, long term strategic goals, etc. Here are some questions to get that conversation going:

  1. Are we a national firm/local firm? If so, are our records housed with multiple local vendors or a single national provider? Why?
  2. Why are we using this particular vendor(s)?
  3. Is this the best vendor to help us maintain and monitor our records?
  4. Is this vendor going to help us reach the short and long term outcomes we want?

Records Policy and Workflow

Just having the right department with the right resources and the right offsite vendor isn’t enough. Those things won’t matter if you don’t have the policy and workflow in place to get you where you want. Things to consider:

  1. Do you have the right retention policy set, or in some cases, do you have a retention policy at all?
  2. Are you moving towards a more digital records environment? It bears mentioning that off-site records vendors earn their money when you keep hard copies. Thus, vendors are most assuredly not going to be helpful in reducing your hard-copy footprint. This is something you will need to take the initiative on.
  3. If you are moving towards a more paper “less” or digital environment, you will need a plan for how this is going to happen. Things such as what staff to use, providing the right equipment, ensuring that your RMS and DMS are the right tools, and so on are vital to consider.