Preserve your records so they can stand up as legal evidence

Posted by TAB on
Records Compliance, Records as Legal Evidence

An organization’s records need to do more than allow business to run smoothly: they should act as a vital line of defense in the event of litigation or government investigation. No business wants to be involved in that kind of outside scrutiny, but it does happen, and in order for your information to protect you, all records need to be subjected to careful application of records management principles.

As Carl Weise, Industry Advisor at AIIM, points out in his blog, organizations also need to retain all potentially relevant records and information as legal evidence. The question for records managers is: how do you accomplish that?

Consistent application of sound records management principles are a vital part of that preparation but, according to Weise records managers can’t wait until their companies are in the midst of legal action to lay the groundwork for that protection.

In his blog post, Weise says, “The action of preserving evidence must begin when the organization can reasonably anticipate litigation or government investigation.” The problem, he continues, is that it’s difficult to identify when that’s going to happen. There is a solution, Weise says. “The best means for organizations to meet this requirement is to gain centralized control of their information and records.”

Weise makes specific recommendations for how to do that, including using electronic records management systems that allow you to:

  • Centrally capture files and emails created and received by employees. These files and emails can be accessed and preserved without interfering with employees.
  • Apply a classification scheme, along with retention periods and access controls, to manage this content.
  • Retrieve metadata from files and emails to allow this information to be managed and accessed later.
  • Use legal hold functionality so that the status of designated records can be changed, preventing their destruction until any legal matter has be resolved.
  • Prevent employees from altering existing information and records and utilize an audit trail to track all activity associated with the stored files and emails.

According to Weise, these “central repositories can allow the legal staff to more easily, and cost-effectively, address their e-discovery and disclosure responsibilities.”

An electronic records management system can be strong protection, but as Weise cautions, “These records management system applications will not be successful on their own. Organizations need to have records management programs, consisting of organization-wide policies and procedures, staff and activities, in which these computer applications can be successfully utilized.”

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