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The sibling, information technology (IT), and its interactions with law

Like other corporate staff groups, IT supports the legal group and is supported by them, such as with contracts issues (See my post of Nov. 23, 2008: IT licensing contracts; and May 22, 2009: adherence by legal to corporate IT standards.). They team on some responsibilities, such as e-discovery (See my post of Oct. 11, 2008: ESI assistance; Aug. 26, 2008: responsibility for data maps; and April 27, 2008: Kraft team included IT partners.).

Mostly, however, general counsel often bemoan the lack of support they get from corporate IT (See my post of March 26, 2006: law is a low priority for corporate IS; Jan. 21, 2008: why law departments get short shrift from corporate technology services; March 26, 2006: IT departments and ASP’s in terms of support; April 26, 2006: IT referees the decision regarding ASP; and Feb. 25, 2009 #2: ASP to SaaS.). Even with the griping, most software customization projects involve corporate IT (See my post of June 3, 2009: software written specifically for legal departments with 12 references; and July 18, 2006: the usual process of a requirements definition.).

No one can definitively resolve the debate about which support approach is better: support from the company’s IS group or support from members of the legal department (See my post of Dec. 7, 2005: IT supports law; and March 25, 2009: claim that the best law departments have their own IT staff.). The approach chosen is usually more due to the size of the law department and its technology ambitions than to any considered strategic analysis. Some benchmark data even exists regarding support levels (See my post of Aug. 27, 2005: one IT support person for every 24 people in the legal department; Dec. 23, 2005: less than one for every 35 people; and Aug. 14, 2005: spending of $4,000 per lawyer.).

A slim possibility is for the legal team to get some assistance from the law firms it retains (See my post of March 26, 2005: use law firm resources to supplement corporate IT support; and Oct. 22, 2005: meet with the technology staff of your outside counsel.).

Finally, the information technology function may be an internal benchmark comparator (See my post of April 9, 2005: law compared to other staff functions; April 6, 2008: benchmark internal staff groups based on staff or spend per 1,000 employees; Sept. 4, 2005: benchmark internally; and April 25, 2009: fundamental differences between legal and other staff groups.).

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One response to “The sibling, information technology (IT), and its interactions with law”

  1. lawyer geek says:

    As in-house counsel for a state government, the huge downside of having IT personnel dedicated to (and located within) the legal department is that the IT support has an incentive to control the attorneys’ work. That is to say, if the IT personnel wants to keep their jobs (the job that raises the per-attorney cost and consumes budget and impacts headcount), they must make absolutely sure that no attorney requests or receives IT assistance from any place other than the IT staff in the legal department. And that makes sense unless the attorney whose work is being controlled via IT support is the attorney assigned to provide advice and counsel to the IT Department. If the IT Department (as a client) wants to provide their assigned counsel enhanced IT capability, the legal department IT staff can step in and interfere with the attorney-client relationship under the guise of having a sole source for all legal department IT support.