Legal Eagles Seek Data Unity

Execs call for better vendor integration of email and records management

February 1, 2007

4 Min Read
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NEW YORK -- Despite the pressing demands of compliance regulations, legal firms are struggling to link their records management, email, and e-discovery systems, according to top lawyers at the LegalTech conference here today.

Speaking during a keynote discussion this morning, Jason Priebe, corporate counsel for Allstate Insurance warned CIOs not to expect any quick fixes to their data woes. "There is no silver bullet, whether it's a records management system or an in-house system, that will solve all your problems," he said.

These sentiments were echoed by another panelist, Ron Perkowski, senior counsel of Halliburton. "You just have to attack the different pieces from different directions," he told Byte and Switch, adding that he would like to see more interoperability. "I dont care about a one-size-fits-all solution -- it is how they are all integrated."

Halliburton uses a number of different products to handle its data, including offerings from EMC's Documentum division and FileNet for records management, and Guidance Software's EnCase Enterprise offering for e-discovery. (See Documentum Puts on a Microsoft Face and FileNet Provides Platform.) The firm is also looking at a pilot product being developed by Microsoft for email management, according to the exec.

A host of vendors is currently playing in these spaces, including EMC, which acquired email and records management technologies through its Legato and Documentum acquisitions; NetApp; and a number of smaller firms. (See EMC Tailors Documentum, Symantec Shakes Up Archiving, NetApp Showcases Legal Discovery, Zantaz Enhances E-Discovery, and Kazeon Reduces Cost of E-Discovery.)Other conference attendees agreed with Perkowski and told Byte and Switch that they would like to share legal data quickly between different systems. "It's surprising that it hasn't happened yet," said Jeff Fowler, counsel at L.A.-based law firm O'Melveny & Myers, adding that EMC and Microsoft are best placed to drive this effort forward.

Another attendee, a director of a legal consulting firm, who asked not to be named, told Byte and Switch that better integration would make CIOs' lives much easier. "[Currently] you have got to have staff to manage a number of different vendors," he explained, adding that this pushes up IT expenditures.

The publicity-shy exec would also like to see EMC enhance its Documentum product in line with the demands of the legal sector. "They need to be more focused on 'legal holds' and how that integrates with the complete records management system," he said.

"Legal hold" orders occur when firms must ensure that documents needed in court cannot be destroyed or altered. A number of technology vendors, including messaging firm Orchestria and its archiving partner Zantaz, offer legal hold capabilities within their technology. (See Orchestria, Zantaz Integrate and Zantaz Supports Exchange.)

The lack of integration between products also mirrors a communication gap between firms' IT staff and the records managers charged with taking care of documents. (See Storage Gets on Record.)At least one technology, e-discovery, looks set to receive a boost following recent amendments to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (FRCP), introduced last month to make documents more readily available in legal disputes. (See FRCP Tip Sheet, Law Firms Face Storage Challenges, Index Addresses FRCP, and Discovering E-Discovery.)

A participant in this morning's keynote, John Rosenthal, a partner at Howrey LLP, which is one of the world's largest litigation firms, explained that the amendments will force him to use his e-discovery systems as never before. "If you look at our case load, we have only done e-discovery on a third of our cases -- our world really changed on December 1st," he said. From now own, a much larger volume of cases will require electronic help.

Allstate's Priebe also urged CIOs to spell out the dollar amounts when convincing CFOs to spend money on records management, e-discovery, and email management. "You're going to save on storage space if you do this right, and there is a lot of money to be saved there," he said, adding that ILM could also prove beneficial to many legal firms. (See Users Mull ILM Muddle, What's the Best Way to Set Up True ILM? , and SMBs Want ILM, Classification.)

— James Rogers, Senior Editor Byte and Switch

  • EMC Corp. (NYSE: EMC)

  • FileNet Corp. (Nasdaq: FILE)

  • Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT)

  • Network Appliance Inc. (Nasdaq: NTAP)

  • Orchestria Corp.

  • Zantaz Inc.

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