Leigh Isaacs Interview

I got to interview Leigh Isaacs, Director of Records & Information Governance for Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe.  She is also a founding member of the Law Firm Information Governance Symposium, and we discuss her role there.  We also talk about her skills gained from school and on the job, as well as current issues in information governance.

Spencer: Where did you go to school?

Leigh: I am actually still pursuing my degree.  I jumped right into the workforce after I graduated high school.  I have accumulated much valuable knowledge in the school of life.

S: What skills did you gain in school?

L: I learned much, but most relevant I think are the leadership skills very early on in life and the art of working with a variety of people.

What was the most valuable thing you learned in school?

In addition to the above, I learned that you need to put forth effort in order to gain a positive return.  Nothing is a given, and we aren’t born entitled to anything.  You must make an investment to reap rewards.  I also learned that unfortunately, there is much negativity in the world.  To be successful you need to learn how to discern the negative from the positive, use the positive to achieve growth and advancement and tune out the negative.

Can you briefly describe your current position?

I am currently the Director, Records & Information Governance for Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP.  Orrick is an international law firm with 25 offices worldwide.  I wear 2 hats in my role.  I oversee the internal IG program for the firm, which includes a multitude of duties. At a high level, I am responsible for working with firm leadership on strategic planning and deployment of enterprise records and IG initiatives.  A core part of my position involves close collaboration with all departments, employees and staff across the firm to develop programs that address defensible records retention and disposition, process improvements, compliance strategies, technology evaluation, vendor management and implementation, training, education and awareness.

In addition, I am also a member of the Firm’s eDiscovery & Information Governance practice group and support our client engagements – advising organizations of various sizes and industries to develop programs, implement information governance strategies and drive their internal efforts forward.

What skills did you learn on the job?

Tough question to ask!  I have learned nearly ALL my skills on the job!  In all seriousness, while I have spent my entire career (30+ years!) in legal, only the last 14 have been spent in a records management/information governance role.  I consider myself a life-long student of learning whether in a formal education program or not.  This means I open myself up to learn from everyone around me.  My philosophy is that it is better to ask questions than assume you know it all, and often times the people you learn the most from are the people who are supporting YOU.  I am fortunate to have worked with some amazing teams over the years – our current team at the top of the list.  I suspect if you asked any of them, they would all agree it is not unusual for me to call/email and say “I know I should know this but…” or “what do you think about x?”  It gives us an opportunity to all share our expertise and learn together.

What blogs/journals do you follow?

That is a LONG list!  As busy as I am, I commit at least 30-60 minutes a day at least catching up on headlines.  Our industry is changing so rapidly, that you can’t afford not to stay up to speed – and even then it’s easy to feel a step behind.  I subscribe to law.com and law technology news.  A couple other favorites:

Ride the Lightning http://ridethelightning.senseient.com/ Sharon Nelson from Sensei writes this security focused blog.
Barclay Blair – Essays in Information Governance http://barclaytblair.com/ All IG…all the time.

Several vendors have great blogs/newsletters. Iron Mountain, RSD, and Nuix are but a few.  I’ve also recently begun scanning Twitter news items.  Too many great people/efforts to follow.  Follow me on @leighisaacs and see who I follow!

What conferences have you attended?

Again – quite a long list.  Regular conferences I attend are ARMA, ILTA (International Legal Technology Association) and LegalTech.  I’ve also attended AIIM and smaller industry-specific or vendor-related conferences.

Can you explain the unique needs of legal preservation compared to general digital preservation?

I preface by saying I am not a lawyer!  While this could probably be a white paper in and of itself, I’d have to say – a key differentiator is that legal preservation has similar requirements/needs of digital preservation but typically has a set start/end time depending upon the length of time required to preserve.  The triggers are outside of the normal retention schedule triggers – meaning that regular disposition must be suspended at the time litigation is reasonably anticipated.  Legal preservation also extends beyond the digital, and requires that information – regardless of medium – be preserved.  In my view, digital preservation refers to ensuring that digital assets are not only retained and disposed of per a retention schedule – their authenticity and accessibility is ensured for as long is need be kept.  Media obsolescence and systems access is a significant factor to be considered, especially for data that needs to be kept for long periods of time.

Can you explain the Law Firm Information Governance Symposium? Is it excusively on the Iron Mountain site?  

That effort is an Iron Mountain sponsored event, but is comprised of 30-40 thought leaders within the legal industry.  Roles of participants cover the spectrum – records managers, IT managers/directors, knowledge management, litigation support and this year we expanded to include some attorney involvement in the creation of our task force reports that will be released this summer.  The 2012 and 2013 reports are downloadable from Iron Mountain’s website.  I am fortunate to be one of the founding Steering Committee Members. The Symposium efforts have been widely accepted as industry best practice and are now being leveraged for ILTA and ARMA educational programming.  This year I also developed and taught an information governance course for The Organization of Legal Professionals.  Curriculum was based largely on the work generated by the Symposium.

The Symposium met for its 3rd annual event back in April. The format was slightly different.   After the 2013 Symposium, we formed 4 task forces to spend several months collaborating and generating draft reports on the following topics:
1. Emerging Trends (focused on outside counsel guidelines and the role of the information governance professional)
2. HIPAA/Privacy
3. Matter Mobility (transfers of information into and out of the firm)
4. eDiscovery and Litigation Support (best practices for dealing with client data)
These reports were then reviewed and commented on at the symposium, and are now in the process of being edited for publication in July.


Be sure to check out the upcoming 2014 Law Firm Information Governance Symposium report through ironmountain.com!

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