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Managing Data at Law Firms

Data is the life blood of any organization today and every industry has its own unique challenges.

Law firms have a special relationship with data and therefore their IT departments have specific challenges. Hundreds or even thousands of lawyers and paralegals spend their days doing research, writing briefs, and generating vast amount of data.


What Northern can help with

Why Control Over File Data is so Important for Law Firms

In any Law firm, 99% of data is sensitive, and is tied a specific case and client. In an ideal world, all the data will be entered into a structured system; segregated, categorized, and protected. Of course, that’s not how it actually works. In reality, unstructured file systems exist alongside our ECM solutions and hold hundreds of millions of files. The legal teams need it this way. Best case these files are stored in the correctly named folder, to which the correct people have access, and once the retention period for case is over that folder is deleted. Unstructured storage environments are rarely that tidy.

This is where Northern can help. Northern can provide the IT-department at a law firm with insight, pre-defined workflows, automation, and follow up to give control over file data. In working with large law firms, three common needs are always prioritized:

File System Structure Name Compliance

While unstructured, file system data needs to be organized. A review of the Client/Matter directory structure naming convention quickly identifies non-compliance.

  • Challenge: creating and maintaining a semi-structured file service based on folder name compliance. More specifically maintaining a standard Client/Matter folder structure.
  • Northern Delivers: pattern validation on a per-folder level of naming convention for client and matter folders, tracking on name compliance numbers over time, a summary of the current state of valid/invalid folder name compliance.

Risk Analysis - Folder Permissions

An analysis of the Client and Matter folders will categorize each in a risk category based on the existing (or missing) permissions. The risk category identifies where action needs to be taken and the priority to address those actions.

  • Challenge: ensuring that all client and/or matter folders have the appropriate can be difficult to maintain in a complex and changing environment.
  • Northern Delivers: on a per folder basis identification of several factors (required, unwanted, legacy object, and suspect permissions) into a single, configurable Risk Score (from 0 to 10) and Category (from Low to Severe). Northern provides summary and tracking numbers for risk scores over time.

Sensitive Data Review

The nature of the data collected and generated by law firms means there will be significant incidents of PHI, PCI, and/or PII in the file system.

  • Challenge: identifying and managing sensitive information in unstructured data
  • Northern Delivers: a list of files that contains sensitive data of several varieties (various types of PII, PHI, and PCI) as well as the number of sensitive data incidents. Northern identifies the sensitive hot spots (folders with large numbers of sensitive data incidents) and tracks the number of files and incidents of sensitive data over time.


How Northern Engages

Getting Started with Data Management

After the initial discussions (defining use cases and setting goals with relevant stakeholders), two modules are deployed to set things in motion:

  • File Service Insight provides a high-level overview of how the file service is used and configured. 
  • File Service Insight for Law Firms provides industry-specific insight to address challenges.These two modules work neatly together to provide an excellent platform to identify challenges and prioritize addressing them.
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Putting it All Together

The understanding from File Service Insight and File Service Insight for Law Firms modules is going to provide more than enough information to begin one or more action campaigns through Northern: permissions hardening, cleanup planning/campaign, and sensitive data protection modules are standard offerings available. Northern can help you gain the insight, develop a plan, and act on the plan to manage you unstructured data and bring the file service to order.

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Let’s take control over your data

Northern can help you understand your data, what is sensitive and determine what can be removed. 

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