Season 2 Episode 5
Welcome to Season 2 of the Law Firm Data Governance podcast, the data governance companion for law firm leaders who want to know more about implementing and improving data governance. Each week I’ll help you with your law firm’s data governance initiative by sharing something I’ve learned in my 20-plus years of working with information and data in law firms.
Over this season, I’ll explore law firm drivers for data governance and the benefits of data governance. So whether you’re making the business case to create your data governance capability or getting some support to get started with data governance, I hope this season helps set you up for success.
In this episode, I’ll talk about how a data governance capability can help increase access to data in a law firm.
Law Firm Data Governance Podcast
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Welcome to season two of the law firm Data Governance Podcast. I’m CJ Anderson, founder of Iron Carrot, and I’m thrilled to be back with another season of the data governance companion for law firm leaders who want to know more about implementing and improving data governance. Each week I’ll help you with your law firm’s data governance initiative by sharing something that I’ve learned in my 20-plus years of working with information and data in law firms.
Over this season, I’ll explore a law firm’s drivers for and the benefits of data governance. So whether you’re making the business case to create your data governance capability or you’re making the business case to get some help to get started with data governance, I hope that this season helps to set you up for success.
This is season 2 episode 5 of the Law Firm Data Governance Podcast. In this episode, I’ll talk about how a data governance capability can help increase access to data in a law firm.
Tim Berners Lee said that data is a precious thing and will last longer than the systems themselves. In the age of cloud storage, we’re all aware of the need to collect and handle data appropriately. Data has always been an important asset for law firms to help them understand more about their operations, their services, their profitability, and of course, their clients.
But since the AI hype bubble came to partner consciousness several years ago, access to data for new uses has risen higher up the priority list for every firm. Your law firm no doubt has big goals for improving the client experience through data innovation and digital transformation. But many law firms struggle with the lack of data maturity and alignment gaps between their strategic goals and the siloed reality of their data landscape.
It’s an unfortunate consequence of the way that most law firms have grown over the last decade that the operational structure of a firm’s data management capabilities can be more of a barrier, than an enabler.
In 2020, the number of bytes of digital data surpassed the observable star count in the universe. The amount of data that the world creates every day is over 2.5 quintillion bytes of data. That’s a ‘2’ and a ‘5’, followed by 17 zeros. To look at it another way, that’s 2 1/2 billion gigabytes or 875 trillion emails.
But law firms don’t just store emails, important as they are. Firms have all kinds of data and metadata in a multitude of systems, and the amount of stuff that gets captured and stored is growing all the time. The increased volume of data created and stored within a firm means that business services teams are becoming unwitting bottlenecks.
A more data-literate workforce has higher expectations of what data is available to them. Still, these gatekeepers prevent people from getting timely access to the data they need, because access management processes haven’t adapted to meet the needs of the modern data-driven law firm.
Data governance wraps a trust and compliance layer around the firm’s data. It ensures that data is consistent and trustworthy and that it doesn’t get misused. I’m thinking about how data governance can support with privacy regulation compliance and additional client contractual requirements for example.
The other advantage of a bottom-up data governance model is that it is empowering for data stewards and data owners. It gives them confidence and support to change their mindset and behaviours by recognising that they are inadvertent gatekeepers. It puts a collaboration mechanism in place to help the stewards help people find and use the data that they need to perform their roles effectively. It lets everyone respond more quickly to lawyer or client demands. It will also support collaboration between teams and open up new ways that they can create business value from the firm’s data assets.
In the literature, this is often called democratising access to data, but this phraseology, in my experience at least, doesn’t resonate with the law firm audience. I find it better to talk about transforming gatekeepers into shopkeepers.
Another area where data governance can help is to put a blended approach to locking down or accessing data in place. It is important to remember that not all data is equal and that not all of it requires the same amount of attention and oversight. This enables the firm to achieve effective governance without unnecessary restrictions. The breaking down of barriers between teams can encourage alignment and collaboration while also controlling costs and reducing overheads and risks.
A data governance layer that is flexible in its approach to data helps your data gatekeepers become data shopkeepers. People who make it easy for others to find and use the data they need to do their jobs. For example, in self-service business intelligence applications.
Your business case could reflect on the volume of data that the firm creates and acquires where it is stored and the lack of access to most of it by the majority of your people. It can explain the empowering nature of data governance groups and that any rules are flexible enough to handle different types of data with different rules and procedures.
All of which can make it easier for people to find the data they need to do their jobs and to innovate without experiencing bottlenecks of people trying to do the right thing. But not having the time or support to do it efficiently. And do use the gatekeeper to shopkeeper allegory. It’s one that I’ve used successfully with several senior stakeholder groups and business cases for law firms in the past.
Thank you for joining me for this law firm Data Governance Podcast episode. I hope you enjoyed it. Please share like and review this episode so that more law firm leaders can learn about data governance.
Join me next time for episode six: benefits of a shared language. Make sure you never miss an episode by following Iron Carrot on social media if you’ve not already done so, and please get in touch if you’ve got questions or topic ideas for future episodes.