17 Jun 2021

In-house legal teams struggle with data management amid online platform boom, study finds

Legal departments lack policies to retain data for eDiscovery and litigation purposes


In-house legal teams are struggling to keep pace with the increase in online collaboration platforms like Slack and Microsoft Teams when it comes to preserving data for legal reasons, according to a new report from the Association of Corporate Counsel (ACC) and data archiving company Pagefreezer.

The ‘Collecting Online Data for eDiscovery & Litigation Readiness Report’ found that close to three quarters of respondents (71.6%) had ‘immature’ or ‘intermediate’ processes for retaining online data should they need it for eDiscovery and litigation purposes. Most organisations said their data management was siloed across different business units, with almost a quarter having no clear retention strategies in place. Only 3.3% of respondents said they have the tools to automate the data retention process.

Catherine Moynihan, AVP of legal management services at ACC, said: “Combining the impacts of the exigencies of Covid-19 and the already frantic pace of adoption of new technology, information governance is undergoing a revolution. With the explosive volume of ESI (electronically stored information) being created through team collaboration tools like Slack and MS Teams, websites, social media, and text messages, legal teams need to preserve and produce this ESI in the same manner as they currently handle email.”

She added that many legal teams would not only struggle to respond to a sudden request for the production of online data, they would also struggle to even identify and access it. 

The survey found that 40% of in-house legal departments would find it difficult or impossible to retrieve text messages, while 28% said they would struggle to produce social media records if a legal matter arose. Most legal teams rely on IT departments to help them retrieve data, with very few legal departments able to produce records themselves quickly or easily.

The survey also found that the likelihood for organisations to have data retention policies varied depending on the size of the company. Around one in four medium to large-sized businesses said they had an advanced information governance maturity level compared to just one in 10 for small companies.

More than half of respondents have made or plan to make investments to improve information governance standards, with slightly more than one in five saying they have no immediate investment plans.