IT and Legal Walk into a Bar: Why Strong Interdepartmental Relationships are a Must in E-Discovery


IT and Legal Walk into a Bar: Why Strong Interdepartmental Relationships are a Must in E-Discovery

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By Jim Gill


The E in E-Discovery requires expertise in tech as well as law, and the most successful in-house legal teams bring those disciplines together. Legal professionals become more technology savvy. IT team members begin to understand the e-discovery process and how to help Legal preserve and collect the required data. But in order to reach the highest levels of efficiency, you have to have a strong working relationship with open lines of communication between all of the key players involved.

This question of how to work effectively with your IT or Legal counterpart is a complicated one. Not only do Legal and IT professionals come from different backgrounds, they often tend to speak different professional languages. Two different worlds, different languages.

This is what we were trying to capture when Luke Rolka, Creative Manager at Exterro, and I were coming up with this week’s e-discovery cartoon. Ten years ago, Legal didn’t always do a very good job of explaining why they were coming into the IT department and asking a whole lot of questions about what IT was doing operationally. What seems like a perfectly clear and simple request to one party might be vague and complex to the other party. We’ve all experienced this.

The goal now should be to mend relationships and explain to IT professionals why the standards and expectations that are being imposed on them by Legal are important. When you do this, a common language can be developed. E-Discovery becomes the lingua franca between IT and Legal.

From an IT perspective, one thing Legal teams can do is remember that litigation is a very small part of what your company is about and an even smaller part of what the IT department is about. The key to getting around this is management buy-in at the highest levels of the company, so that when you go to IT and ask for help, they understand that their managers know e-discovery issues have to be a priority as they come up.

An added consideration for Legal is that their IT partners over the last 15 years have been affected by globalization and outsourcing more than almost any other part of business. Critical IT positions have moved to areas where English is not a primary language, such as Mexico, Brazil, India, and Eastern Europe. So when you’re communicating with IT, be precise about what you are asking, double and triple check how you’re communicating, and document your requests.

In cross-departmental project management, having a process that everyone is signed onto is important, but IT has a particularly heightened need for documentation, specification, and reasoning behind requirements that they are going to carry out because they are always thinking in terms of practical execution within the context of available technology, time and cost budgets, and their own priorities. Armed with specifics, relevancy, and even repeatability or scalability in mind, conversations between IT and Legal will carry more positive outcomes for both.

IT and Legal don’t have to be punchline cliché. When they walk into a bar, they can order a beer, sit down, and have a friendly conversation after a successful day of E-Discovery.

But, to help you along the way, here are 6 tips for creating an effective IT/Legal partnership:

1. Educate Your Boss on the Importance of Developing a Relationship and Process with IT/Legal

2. Define Roles and Responsibilities Between IT/Legal

3. Take IT to Lunch (Really, this can make a huge difference in opening up communication)

4. Schedule Monthly/Quarterly Meetings Between Teams

5. Document and Consistently Refine and Further Define the Process

6. Create a Universal Tracking System for Tasks/Projects

For more about how developing a relationship with IT (and other key players in your company) can streamline your e-discovery process, download Exterro’s latest Doing More Before Review Checklist.


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