Information Governance Best Practice in Legal – How Do We Get Lawyers to Change?

Here at the Legal Week Strategic Technology Forum this week I've been listening to, and participating in, various panel discussions around what constitutes good information governance in the legal industry.

This does seem to be a particular challenge to law firms because there are some very entrenched and outdated ways of working that are very hard to shift, both on the lawyer and client side. The CIOs and Information Architects at this event are clearly trying to make sense of this, and deliver value to the business, but it’s often a slow and painful process.

Matthew Ravden, Chief Strategy Officer, Mimecast chaired a panel discussion at Legal Week Strategic Technology Forum 2014 on ‘Best Practice Information Governance’

One of yesterday’s panel sessions was all about the use of so-called ‘consumer-grade’ services such as Gmail and Dropbox. As is so often the case, Dropbox was called out as the poster child for dangerous, non-compliant tools that end users inside law firms use to collaborate and send large files. There was a quite clear sense from the CIOs in the room that the use of Dropbox is not ideal, but equally, a somewhat disappointing tone of resignation that it’s too difficult to police. So although the room was split in half with those ‘for’ and those ‘against’, very few were advocating any kind of ban on its use. In fact, it seemed to be considered relatively low risk (in the grand scheme of things) provided the right Ts and Cs were in place to ensure ‘proper’ use, and an acceptance of where accountability might lie in case of something going amiss.

I’ll confess to finding this a bit mystifying. I wouldn't say that outlawing the use of certain tools is necessarily the way to go – all it’ll do is cause resentment, and force bad practice underground – but surely IT should be guiding users towards tools that fit squarely within the approved corporate framework, and keep sensitive material protected and discoverable. There’s clearly a belief that no matter what’s mandated, it’s very hard to enforce, particularly if the end users are head-strong lawyers. But if the tool that’s been suggested as an alternative offers an entirely frictionless, simple user experience, then it should be quite a simple task to affect a change. Shouldn’t it?

Mimecast’s Large File Send product, from an IT point of view, ticks all the boxes for security and compliance. But from the end user’s perspective, it can be pretty much invisible. You just send the large file in the same way you’d send any file. There’s a .lfs suffix if you care to look closely, and you get a pop-up window that gives you some options over how long you leave the file accessible for, if you want a notification that it’s been accessed, and so on.  But other than that, the message to the end user is, ‘you don’t even have to leave Outlook.’ Surely, for this particular use case of Dropbox, or Hightail, or WeTransfer, it’s a no-brainer?  Want to send large files? Go back to email!

All of this is easy to say, of course, but it doesn't mean that lawyers will necessarily down tools and adopt a different service straight away. If they’ve got used to something, they won't want to change.

The solution may well be to personalize the problem – or rather, personalize the upside of using a tool like Large File Send.  For example, lawyers like to know when a client has accessed a file, or indeed sent them a file, and Large File Send will alert them as soon as this happens.  With something like Dropbox, it’s likely that the client will put the file on the service and then have to call or email the lawyer to tell them it’s there. Two steps rather than one.

As well as unruly lawyers, the CIOs in the debate pointed to clients’ own practices having a significant influence on the tools that are used to exchange information. But once again, I was left thinking that surely it’s in both sides’ interests to use secure, enterprise-grade technology rather than tools that put data at risk? The same rule applies, though. The experience has to be easy, or the client will stick to what they know best. Again, Large File Send can help here. If you want to receive a large file from a client, simply ‘request a large file’ using Large File Send and the client can upload the document securely and send it to you. They don’t even have to be a Mimecast client.

I resisted the temptation to launch into a sales pitch – in fact I was under strict instructions not to. But for goodness sakes – if you want to send large files, and send them securely – just go back to email!!

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