As if the lives of records managers aren’t stressful enough – with the responsibilities for storing and maintaining hordes of information – the threat of facing discovery requests and other litigation may be enough to send them over the edge and into full-fledged panic.
Per the rules of discovery, you can be forced to dig up and unearth various forms of information – that can date back years – at a moment’s notice. So what will you do if an opposing party requests a piece of data that may be buried in backup tapes or stuffed in the back of a filing cabinet? How far would you go to get that file, document or email back in time to meet the deadlines set forth by the judge?
Hopefully, you’ve taken proactive information management measures so it never has to get to that point. How often is a state of panic the appropriate and most effective way to approach anything involving court or the law?
So long before you went and hired that medium to hold a séance in hopes of conjuring the information back from the other side, the better plan would have been to take a proactive approach to organizing and storing information. That’s something that too often slips through the cracks and is forgotten about until it’s too late, which most often becomes apparent the moment you begin digging for information.
Sending your records manager into the basement archive room with a flashlight certainly isn’t the best way to go about responding to a discovery request.
Half the battle of facing down the challenges of litigation is won long before a lawsuit, complaint or discovery request is filed. By preparing ahead of time, a company is more likely to come out of litigation with its reputation and integrity intact, while a records manager will be able to say the same of his or her sanity.
It starts with first knowing what types of information the company is sitting on. Conducting a thorough audit or investigation will allow a records manager to identify which information may be relevant to future litigation and thus be stored either offsite or within backup tapes for long-term posterity.
Digging even deeper, stored records should also be searchable so it’s easier to locate and produce them with the time comes. It’s important to keep in mind that finding stored records should require a magnifying glass, not an electron microscope.