Peer to Peer: ILTA's Quarterly Magazine

Issue link: http://epubs.iltanet.org/i/1356436

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Page 59 of 94

60 I s a vast stockpile of physical records obstructing your digital transformation efforts? The rapid transition to remote working in 2020 accelerated most firms' efforts to "go digital"—with many reporting that more lawyers and staff than ever are embracing change. In a world where no one is certain if or when the office environment will ever be the same again, there has been a massive shift away from paper-based processes toward using electronic files, online applications and digital workflows. Yet the fact remains that most firms are still weighed down by a huge volume of physical records residing in offsite storage— tens of thousands of boxes. Typically, these have accumulated over decades, cost millions to store and manage each year and expose the firm to significant security, litigation and compliance risks. Without clear policies and procedures for record retention and destruction, firms run the risk of violating government regulations, information governance policies and clients' outside counsel guidelines, and incurring unnecessary risks and costs that no organization can afford in these challenging economic times. But there is hope—and several possible paths to a more paperless future. In this article, we'll explore strategies to deal with "the albatross"—the backlog of aging paper records that continues to haunt most law firms. We'll start by examining how many firms dealt with their "paper problem" during initial pandemic lockdowns, then turn to how firms are approaching the longer-term issue of what to do about several decades' worth of records stored offsite. While it may be tempting to try to digitize every physical record, in practice this has always been prohibitively costly. Instead of rushing to scan everything, it makes sense to take a step back and start with the question, "Do we really need to keep everything in the first place?" Maximizing efficiency while minimizing risks in the age of COVID-19 and beyond requires informed and decisive action to eliminate the deadweight of records that arguably should have been destroyed a long time ago, in tandem with automating workflows for retention and disposition on an ongoing basis. Reducing the backlog is important, but vigilance and planning are also critical to prevent the albatross from continuing to grow. B Y D A R R E L L M E R VA U Confronting the Albatross Reducing the Costs and Risks of Physical Records Retention for a Post-Pandemic World

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