With the explosion of Big Data, hacking and cybercrimes, government professions rethink document management.  

By Monica Bay

Like corporations and Big Law, the U.S. government has been front and center when it comes to e-discovery, privacy, and information management challenges. Recently, the Office of Personnel Management was hacked, exposing 21.5 million people’s personal information; and then there’s the ongoing controversy about Hillary Clinton’s email—just to name two.

But unlike most corporations and law firms, government professionals often face tight budgets and minimal staffing. A crucial step in ameliorating those challenges is to share experiences and knowledge with government peers. That concept was at the heart of Wednesday’s LexisNexis Federal E-Discovery Think Tank interactive webinar, which drew more than 75 federal, state and local government professionals.

Three high-profile speakers dived into the topic, “The Growing and Evolving Impact of Information Governance on E-discovery Best Practices:” John Facciola, retired U.S. Magistrate Judge for The District of Columbia; Kenya Dixon, assistant director, division of litigation technology and analysis, at the Federal Trade Commission; and  Jason R. Baron, of counsel at Drinker Biddle & Reath,  and co-chair of the Information Governance Initiative.  David Cowen, president and managing director of The Cowen Group navigated the hour-long webinar.

The webinar was the second event of the Think Tank, which launched on June 10, in Washington, D.C.  Four more virtual meetings will be held this fall; the project will culminate with a half-day live workshop at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. on Dec. 10.

Wednesday’s speakers (along with comments from the audience) dove into a wide range of topics, starting with Baron’s discussion of the August 24, 2012 Executive Order from President Barack Obama, which Baron called “an inflection point” to drive change. It requires that by 2019 archives must be digital or electric (i.e., no more paper).

Major themes of the webinar were the need to adopt information governance and collaborate with other government peers. “We need to go fast forward, adopt ‘people-processes-technology’ and bring everyone to the table,” said Dixon. She also stressed the need to address the broad amount of technology, from mobile, to forensics, audio, email, etc. —and to always consider privacy and security.

Facciola advised that “judges do not want to hear all the reasons why you can’t deliver. Judges want to hear very specific showing of what will be entailed” in the litigation.


After the webinar, the panelists offered their reactions to the discussion. A key theme was career opportunities.

Baron: “I was heartened to hear that the Federal Trade Commission and others are thinking about bringing best practices in information governance into the federal workplace. ‘Information governance’ may not be a term found in any statute or regulation, but the concept serves as an important framework for agency officials to come together to discuss how to implement Executive Orders and government directives touching on federal information,” said Baron, who spent 33 years in government roles—most recently as director of litigation at the National Archives and Records Administration. Baron also urges all federal agencies to appoint an IG champion, to serve as the leading voice within the agency for data policies.

Dixon:  “Information governance positions have opened up in the government. Positions range from GS-9 all the way to the C-suite. These jobs combine records, legal, IT, privacy and security knowledge to create über professionals.”

Facciola:  “The challenge to the government to create systems of gathering and managing information is hard to exaggerate—particularly because the technology keeps changing as we speak about it.”

The involvement of CIOs in many governmental operations—to insure that all participants appreciate the management of information concerns—is heartening, said Facciola. “To a judicial outsider, there has been a steady and welcome growth in the government’s appreciation of the central role that information management and governance will play in all government operations.”


Monica Bay is a Fellow at CodeX: The Stanford Center for Legal Informatics and a freelance reporter and analyst. She is a member of the California bar. 

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