Law Firms Face Storage Challenges

Email management, encryption, and FRCP figure highly on agenda of legal sector CIOs

January 31, 2007

4 Min Read
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NEW YORK -- Law firms face a major challenge juggling an ever-growing volume of emails while needing to retain critical data, according to CIOs and IT directors at a conference here this week.

At least one exec has already been forced to take drastic action. "We have attorneys out there that have never deleted an email -- it's killing us in drive space, it's killing us in backups," complained Neeraj Rajpal, CIO at New York-based Bryan Cave, during a panel discussion on IT best practices.

Desperate times call for desperate measures. "We're proposing a policy that says, after 60 days, we will delete the email unless you move it to a folder," said Rajpal. "I know that I will not be a popular figure."

Bryan Cave has little choice in this matter if it wants to keep its storage costs down. "In the last five years we have seen 60 percent growth," he explained, adding that email storage is expected to grow from 4 to 15 Tbytes over the next few years.

Email is a hot topic in the legal sector, and the technology has already proved crucial in some high-profile cases. (See A Fine Mess.) Morgan Stanley, for example, was famously slammed with a $15 million fine when it was unable to produce email evidence in court. (See Storage Goes to Law School.)With this example in mind, other firms are opting for a less extreme approach. "We will never delete anything -- I would rather pay the cost of keeping everything," explained Peter Lamb, IT director at Toronto-based Torys, during the panel discussion.

Torys has deployed a document management system from Interwoven in an attempt to get around this problem. (See SJ Berwin Leverages Interwoven, Interwoven Acquires Scrittura, and Interwoven Expands PartnerNetwork .) "It simply takes the whole email and puts it into the document management system," he explained, adding that Torys stores 3.5 million documents within the system, about 60 percent of which are emails.

Another panelist, Steve Skidmore, IT director of New York-based Martin Clearwater & Bell, said that his firm is still working out the specifics of its email retention policy, although he has already rolled out a document management system.

Bryan Cave's Rajpal is still deciding on a technology to get his firm's emails under control, although, he told Byte and Switch that, initially, emails deleted by his team will be stored on a small SAN just in case they are needed in court. "It could be for three months, six months, we don't know," he said, adding that, long-term, he is unlikely to deploy an archiving system.

A number of firms, such as Symantec and EMC, offer archiving software for storing data. (See Symantec Shakes Up Archiving, Tempest in a Tape Encryptor, EMC Vows More for Infoscape, and Email Archiving to Grow.) Rajpal, for his part, has not had a good experience with this technology in the past. "There were too many Messaging Application Program Interface (MAPI) connections -- it just kills your network," he said.Another technology cited as problematic by CIOs at the New York event was storage encryption, which is touted by a slew of vendors, including Decru, NeoScale, and Sun. (See Decru Selects Mu, NeoScale Claims Speedy Encryption, and Sun Encrypts Tape Drive.)

Cost, apparently, is the big inhibitor. "As far as storage encryption, we did a study and it was far too expensive right now -- we don't want to spend that money," said Rajpal.

These sentiments were echoed by Lamb, although both execs are looking at laptop encryption. "We have three products that we're looking at now, all three are Department of Defense (DOD)-rated," explained Rajpal.

Other big talking points at the conference were the amendments to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (FRCP) introduced last year as part of an overhaul of the legal system. (See FRCP Tip Sheet, Federal Schmederal, and FBI.)

The legislation, which forces firms to make electronic documents available in legal disputes, has led to the creation of new breed of IT exec: the Electronic Stored Information (ESI) coordinator. "Companies need someone who can talk to the court and explain your system and your applications," said Stephanie Mendelsohn, legal director of corporate records at San Francisco-based biotechnology firm Genentech, during a separate panel discussion. "It's helpful to have someone who is watching the company's back."James Rogers, Senior Editor Byte and Switch

  • Decru Inc.

  • EMC Corp. (NYSE: EMC)

  • Interwoven Inc.

  • NeoScale Systems Inc.

  • Sun Microsystems Inc. (Nasdaq: SUNW)

  • Symantec Corp.

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