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Manage and Discover Your Information: Bridging the Gap Between Legal and IT

Deloitte Insights video

An organization’s electronic data -- items like email, instant messages and work documents – is growing at exponential rates, making information management and discovery and ever-evolving issue.  On this episode of Insights, learn how legal practices are teaming with information technology departments (IT) to keep ahead of the electronic data management curve.


Andrew Sherman, Managing Director and General Counsel, Rabobank Group
Jeff Seymour, Principal, Forensic and Dispute Services, Deloitte Financial Advisory Services LLP


Sean O’Grady (Sean): Hello and welcome to Insights where today we will be examining the growth of electronic data items like email, instant messages, work documents, and how this information is secured and managed by a collaboration between legal and information technology departments. Now with us in New York of this discussion are Andrew Sherman, managing director and general counsel of the Dutch headquartered global financial services provider Rabobank Group, and besides Andrew is Jeff Seymour, a principal within Forensic and Dispute Services at Deloitte Financial Advisory Services. So gentlemen, this notion of information governance really is not foreign. We see news organizations covering this all the time about entities scrambling to find electronic information when a situation develops. So Andrew, my first question for you is, does that scramble need to happen?

Andrew Sherman (Andrew): No, that scramble does not need to happen, and in fact that scramble should not happen, and to address that at Rabobank, we have actually implemented an e-discovery tool that gives us the ability to effectively and efficiently collect electronic data, so we do not have to have that scramble.

Sean: Thank you for that and Jeff your perspective on the scramble.

Jeff Seymour (Jeff): I think the scramble has a lot to do with budget issues in many senses. In order to get out in front of that scramble and prevent it, organizations have to spend out in front and that budget money to do that comes from a different place than the money that is spent when an event occurs, a litigation or an investigation, and as such it is hard to elevate that need up high enough into the organization and have somebody recognizing the problem at that high-enough level in order to spend that money up front trying to correct the problem.

Sean: We are talking about the scramble, we are talking about budgets, how does that relate to the working relationship between an organization’s legal and IT department.

Jeff: It is directly correlated, and I would say that for the most part, those relationships are anywhere on the spectrum from occasionally dysfunctional to at least not as coordinated as they could be. In order to solve the problem, both constituencies legal and IT need to come to the table and need to actually have a working relationship and they literally speak different languages. So, it often comes down to finding either governance structure internally to help bridge that gap or some other mechanism in order to bring those constituencies to the table and get them in alignment.

Sean: Now let us turn that to the general counsel. Would you agree with that assessment?

Andrew: I definitely would. In my situation, the implementation of our e-discovery tool was really the first major project that was undertaken between IT and legal where IT was providing a service for legal. And our biggest challenge as Jeff mentioned was that the IT folks do not speak or understand legal speak and the legal team does not speak or understand IT speak, and we really needed an interpreter to bridge that gap. In our case, we looked for external advisors and we ended up hiring Deloitte to act as that interpreter and to fill that communication gap for us, so that the two teams could understand what each team wanted, needed, and what the limitations were.

Sean: So, it sounds like there is a need for these two departments to be functioning better, but at the same time, they are speaking different languages. So, how would you recommend they team better together.
Andrew: The teaming is going to be an important element. They definitely are going to need to team in the future for us. Again, e-discovery was our first major project, but it is just one of many that we expect to come down as information management challenges get larger. Jeff mentioned earlier and I think key is to have enough seniority in the institution. Somebody in a high enough level who is willing to take on the function of looking at this from a holistic point of view and what is good for the organization as opposed to by department.

Sean: That sounds like Jeff you have a relationship with Rabobank, you of course get to work with a number of different folks across spectrum. So, that is an interesting perspective. So, how are you seeing these two departments team in different organizations and what are some of the thoughts around that.

Jeff: I think the most effective best practice if you will that we see out in the marketplace is the creation of some governance structure that formally brings those constituencies and at times others together, not just on a one-time basis but provides a vehicle for them to collaborate on an ongoing basis, and deal with things like policy, deal with things like spend on IT and usage of certain IT systems and technologies where without the influence of both groups you get behaviors that cause these problems in the first place. So, for instance, document retention is a huge issue and drives a lot of cost. So, when these events occur, the volumes of data that are out are really what cause the problem. Once they are there, they are very hard to get rid of and without the collaboration of those two constituencies to begin with, it is almost impossible to cause policy or IT changes in order to effectively manage and hopefully keep under control at least the growth if not the actual volume of that information.

Sean: It sounds like we are already marching the conversation in this direction. So, it is logical to bring it all together here and that is, from both of your perspectives and Jeff we will start with you, barriers to entry, the hurdles for these two organizations. What do you see these two departments having to overcome as this need grows and grows as there is more electronic data created?

Jeff: Yeah probably two things, the language barrier, as Andrew mentioned is a really significant one. They literally speak different languages and need to be brought together in that regard, and I would say the spend is the second biggest issue, may be the biggest issue. In terms of the spend, you have got the need to spend in order to put preventative measures in place in order to change behavior. Legal does not want to spend that money up front and IT typically does not want to spend its money on those issues as well. So, the biggest challenge is to figure out and coordinate, what you going to try and figure or what you are going to try and fix programmatically and where that money is going to come from. And while that might not seem real complex, that certainly is a great challenge for a lot of organizations.

Sean: Well it is probably what contributes to that scramble this idea of proactive spending. I could see how that could get sliced pretty quickly, but Andrew, what do you think.

Andrew: I think the challenges to come are going to grow. We see social networking being used by organizations increasingly. We see the issues of BYOD (bring your own device to work) and other information management issues and those challenges are going to be difficult to overcome. I also think there are two, in my scope two main concerns. One of the concerns is the difference between what the end users want and the abilities they want with these technologies is always going to be expansive versus the concerns of legal and protecting the organization and minimizing the amount of or managing the amount of information that is out there. And along the same lines as Jeff said legal spend, I will call resources, particularly in this environment and this economy, resources are limited. IT does not want to have to allocate its resources and spend to these projects because they are not preventing an expense from IT. Legal also has limited budgets and resources. So, it is a matter of having somebody senior enough in the organization with a holistic view of what needs to be done who will make decisions that are right for the organization as a whole, and I think that is key to moving forward and bridging that challenge.

Sean: So, the reality is electronic data is not going away. It is growing. So either get in front of it or it is going to pass you right by. Gentlemen, thank you both very much for your time today.

Andrew and Jeff: Thank you.

Sean: You are welcome. Okay, we have been discussing the relationship between legal and IT department with Jeff Seymour, a principal within Deloitte Financial Advisory Services, and Andrew Sherman, managing partner and general counsel of Rabobank Group. If you would like to learn more about Jeff, Andrew, or any of the topics discussed on today’s broadcast, you can find that information on our website, its

For all the good folks here in Insights, I am Sean O’Grady. We will you see next time.

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