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Legal firms today are storing more data than ever before. But as it turns out, most legal firms don’t use most of the data they take in. Instead, the vast majority of data winds up idling and going to waste, not moving into production.
Because of this, data is often more of a liability than an asset for legal firms. Unfortunately, this puts organizations and clients at risk for costly data breaches and privacy violations.
For this reason, law firms need comprehensive data disposition strategies to reduce data volumes and limit exposure. With this in mind, let’s take a closer look at what legal data disposition entails and why it’s something that all firms should consider—including yours.
What Is Data Disposition?
As the name suggests, data disposition is a process of destroying or migrating electronically stored information that you no longer need. Common examples include old emails, client records, and documents with personally identifiable information.
Legal firms sometimes destroy data so nobody can discover or access it. However, they may also choose to move data into a secure storage location so they can access it later.
Most organizations tend to have strategies and policies regarding how they handle data disposition. In most cases, data disposition aligns with broader information governance strategies.
Data disposition aligns with Rule 26 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (FRCP), which limits the scope of discovery to what is proportional to the needs of each case.
Benefits of Data Disposition
Now that you have a better idea of what data disposition is, let’s turn our attention to some of the benefits it delivers.
Collecting, processing, and producing data is very expensive. Also, the cost of storing significant volumes of data for a long time is considerably higher.
Implementing a data disposition strategy reduces operational costs significantly. And for this reason, data disposition is useful for firms that need to control their spending and want to cut back on waste.
Organizations today face rising pressure from government agencies, consumers, and watchdog groups to collect and use data more responsibly. At the same time, data compliance is becoming increasingly complex due to evolving privacy frameworks like GDPR and the California Consumer Protection Act (CCPA).
Creating a data disposition strategy can help demonstrate regulatory compliance by ensuring proper data destruction, storage, and migration. As a result, firms can avoid costly penalties and violations.
Free System Resources
Another great benefit of data disposition is that it increases system storage and availability. This is very important for firms that manage data at a large scale and need to limit the amount of information they store and maintain.
To illustrate, a firm may use a cloud storage system with limited storage. In this environment, limiting data is critical for minimizing costs and maximizing performance.
How Can Data Disposition Help Mitigate Legal Risks?
Almost all data comes with a shelf life. Meaning after a certain period of time, it’s no longer useful to a legal team or client. Keeping data readily accessible beyond its useful life is very risky because it increases the likelihood of a data breach or privacy violation.
Here are a few ways data disposition helps mitigate legal risks.
Reduce Ransomware Opportunities
More and more hackers are deploying ransomware that allows them to control and encrypt end-user files. And law firms are a top target for ransomware attacks due to the sensitive data they store.
It’s not always possible to keep bad actors out of your network. However, reducing the amount of information that you have on hand gives cybercriminals fewer items to exploit for ransom.
Protect Against Theft
Legal firms are also at risk from physical and digital theft. Often, legal professionals store data in insecure locations on smartphones and laptops or in cloud systems with weak authorization credentials.
One of the best ways to prevent theft is to enforce a data disposition policy along with a mobile device management (MDM) strategy. Centralizing data through MDM enables IT to control data and implement strong authorization safeguards. It also makes it easier to dispose of old and outdated information.
Maintain a Trustworthy Reputation
Law firms are responsible for protecting client data across its entire lifecycle. Firms that experience data breaches and privacy violations risk losing customers and generating negative reviews.
On the other hand, proper data disposal reduces costly cybersecurity incidents and helps legal firms maintain a strong and trustworthy reputation. This is critical for attracting and also retaining clients.
How to Manage Data Disposition
Data disposition policies tend to vary across firms. Here are a few tips that you can use to create and manage a reliable and defensible data disposition strategy in your organization.
Identify Your Disposition Needs
In order to properly dispose of data, you first need to understand the data at hand. This process requires identifying the type of information you own and where it lives across your network, which can take quite a bit of work.
Consider rounding up various department heads and IT professionals to streamline data discovery. Try to learn how different teams use data and where they store information. This makes it easier to determine what you can safely eliminate and what should remain accessible.
Set Clear Policies
Organizations often run into trouble because they lack clear and concise data disposition guidelines. This confuses team members and makes it harder to dispose of information properly.
As a best practice, you should create a single unified data disposition strategy that aligns with your organization’s needs and objectives.
Educate Your Team Members
Before you start deleting files, it’s a good idea to bring your team into the fold. Explain why your organization is culling data, what the process entails, and what role your team members can play, if any.
This is necessary to establish trust and prevent pushback from users concerned about their important files. It’s also a great opportunity to discuss data hygiene and best practices.
Set a Time Frame
Data disposition may take a long time—especially if your organization has a considerable amount of information and end-users.
Because of this, it’s a good idea to set a project time frame and objectives. Approach data disposition from a project management perspective with clear goals. You may also want to appoint a data disposition leader to oversee the completion of each project..
Conduct Regular Data Audits
Companies often spend months or years reducing their data volumes only for data to accumulate again.
To prevent this from happening, your team may want to consider conducting regular data audits to keep close tabs on stored information and prevent it from spiraling out of control.
Automate the Process
Most legal teams have too much data to dispose of manually. The process is far too time-consuming and labor-intensive. As a result, many organizations are choosing to automate the process using eDiscovery software.
Venio Systems offers a cutting-edge eDiscovery platform that streamlines all aspects of data management from end to end. With this platform, your organization can easily cull incoming data and prevent extraneous information from accumulating. In turn, your team will save time, reduce risk, and can enjoy eDiscovery and data management at a cost-effective rate.
To experience Venio Systems in action, request a free demo today.
About the Author
Justin Reynolds, Akshita Singhal & Lianna Vaughan
This post was written by Justin Reynolds. Justin is a freelance writer who enjoys telling stories about how technology, science, and creativity can help workers be more productive. In his spare time, he likes seeing or playing live music, hiking, and traveling. This post was reviewed and published by Akshita and Lianna, the in-house team of Venio.