Metadata for Lawyers and Corporate Counsels

Metadata powered DMS. Secure collaboration for Lawyers to access contents from anywhere and anytime

Written by Knowledge Team, posted on July 11, 2020

Legal Research, E-Discovery, Review and Ethics. Why Metadata matters for Lawyers. Technology and best practices for modern law firm

Why Metadata is important

QLaw firms are great in creating contents and when it comes to managing them in their organization, they have tough time. Reason being, information about the data created and stored in the law firm over years is not available easily. Extending the document usability and purging the contents (with deletion proof) beyond retention timeline are important. Details about the data, aka Metadata is useful to effectively identify the documents for legal research, search the precedence or implementing content compliance.

What is Metadata

Properties, attributes or simply additional data about the data can be called as Metadata. Metadata must allow contents to be classified and categorized; it must define the Documents. Metadata must be part of the document and normally hidden during display of documents. System Metadata can be tagged to the document automatically by the DMS during document create or edit steps. User defined Metadata will be input by content authors and editors. At any time, metadata created must support the legal business process, either on firm or practice area level

Examples of Metadata in legal documents

  • Case documents created by Microsoft Word contains created date, author name and file size
  • Documents sent for review will include comments from the auditors or reviewers
  • Document type and keywords tagged as per Taxonomy managed by KM specialists

Why Metadata matters for Legal Case Documents

Apart from playing an important role in search for aiding in legal research, Metadata is an invaluable tool for lawyers and knowledge managers. Efficient methodology, can extend the longevity of data, and being compliant at the same time

  1. E-Discovery users appreciate metadata as it helps them identity the contents. Contents can be placed on legal hold based on Metadata or exported as evidence. All data having Document Type metadata as Correspondence can be marked for further review
  2. Documents are classified as they are created and modified. Additional policies like workflow approval or governance compliance can be applied immediately. DMS can route the documents for reviewers or save the documents in appropriate folders
  3. Identifying documents will be easier as users can navigate the Metadata tree and locate the contents (precedents or clauses) easily. This approach will allow documents to be tagged with multiple metadata and will appear in different content tree nodes
  4. Metadata can aid in easier collaboration as contents with certain metadata can be made available to external parties like Opposing counsels or Clients

Metadata Management in Law Firms

Metadata must be managed throughout the Information Lifecycle Management (ILM) process. Policies must be put in place on how metadata is created, managed, modified and deleted from the documents. Beyond the regulatory requirements it must be part of firms best practice to manage their contents and associated Metadata.
Metadata is also discoverable content when the firm is under subpoena. Even though metadata is harmless in most scenarios additional precaution must taken if it contains privilege or confidential information. For example, a document subject through approval process might contain approver comments which might have reference to classified product information or comments not meeting the company standards.
Most word processing solution allow users to turn off the comments display and this introduces additional risk. Document which have the review functionality hidden might still contain the internal review comments and these documents can be sent inadvertently outside.
Law firms must be careful in sending documents without sanitizing metadata, as they might disclose the client information to outside parties. Firms must implement technology and process to protect themselves in managing the metadata, when transmitting the contents electronically

Metadata Scrubbing

Email is the common way documents are shared electronically. Law firms must invest in technology solution and process (user training and monitoring) to remove documents’ metadata before electronic transmission. There are two types of solutions to protect confidential information disguised as metadata.

  1. Client-side solutions are mostly Outlook add-ins, available in both desktop and web version. Rules can be configured on what defines confidential data and triggers for executing the rule (like rules can run only when sharing with external parties). Metadata, revisions, comments and notes are automatically removed. All outgoing contents can also be converted to PDF
  2. Server-side solutions will scan all the outgoing emails, Teams conversation and external collaboration portal. Any sensitive contents will be redacted and purged and only sanitized documents are sent to third parties

Ethical Obligations in Metadata Management

Scrubbing metadata is required before documents are sent electronically to protect client privilege or confidential information. Law firm also have ethical obligation to preserve the evidence and not remove certain metadata. Guidelines must be implemented to support the discovery and delivery of metadata during the discovery process

PageLightPrime for Metadata Management

Legal Document Management Solution from PageLightPrime allows Law Firms to collaborate securely with internal and external users through Client Portal. Users can access DMS from Outlook through Legal DMS Outlook Integration. Metadata and hidden information can be removed based on outgoing email recipients. Single click can remove review comments, speaker notes, metadata, and revisions. All outgoing word files can be converted to locked PDF files. PageLightPrime provides corporate legal department and law offices complete DMS on Microsoft 365