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IT planning: be prepared

View profile for Casian Sala

The old Boy Scout watchword “Be prepared!” is hardly the kind of elegant aphorism you’ll find framed on the wall of a dim-lit Holborn bar – but nothing could be more timely for an increasingly fraught legal profession.

With the reverberations of the Jackson Reforms still echoing around firms and chambers from Bristol to Birmingham, it’s becoming increasingly apparent that in order to meet its challenges - such as those of e-Discovery and Cost Budgeting - rigorous planning is the key to survival and success.

In the past, it might have been easy to overlook the vital importance of IT to the legal profession. Often the butt of jokes (and indeed entire sitcoms), the extent of an IT manager’s advice was thought to boil down to ‘Turn it off and turn it on again’.

Writing in recently, Barry Murphy remembers the slow-burn arrival of e-Discovery:

“For more than a decade, e-Discovery existed in relative obscurity.  While a select few recognized the skyrocketing costs and growing risks that digital information represent in e-Discovery, the topic did not achieve mainstream recognition until at least 2008.  And even then, as now, e-Discovery – and information governance in general – does not get the respect it deserves.”

Can it really be the case that IT matters are not regarded with due respect? Surely in 2013, only the most aged of legal dinosaurs would consider information technology anything other than an essential aspect of legal preparation. With e-Disclosure increasingly part of the legal working day, it is inarguably clear that IT planning must be considered alongside every other aspect of pre-action preparation. 

IT staff and partners are now responsible for a vast burden of litigation support - including the need to comply with Data Protection legislation. Technologies are advancing with bewildering speed, with new software and methods available on seemingly a daily basis.

And the sheer volume of data generated and interrogated on a daily basis is almost beyond comprehension - a decade ago an IT professional might have generated hundreds of documents: today, that number is likely to reach the millions. It is estimated that by 2020, organisations will be dealing with 50 times the amount of data currently generated.

In the past, failure to plan IT activities effectively might have led to lost documentation, or perhaps a Trojan Horse virus wiping a few shared hard drives. In the twenty-first century world of e-Discovery and e-Disclosure, of cloud sharing and 24-hour secure access to documents, slipshod preparation is potentially catastrophic.

Firms should take a 360 degree approach to IT planning, combining a top-down approach and decisive leadership with truly empowered IT support staff. The IT aspects of case preparation - including e-Discovery and e-Disclosure – must be built into planning from the earliest stages, with all the necessary IT activities costed (essential under the Jackson Reforms) and accounted for.

At Legastat, our litigation support comes with the latest in IT expertise, and we are able to advise on how best to meet e-Disclosure and e-Discovery obligations as effectively and promptly as possible. Contact us via this website, and we can consider the best way forward together.