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IMLA 2018 - For Most Local Governments Public Disclosures are Labor Intense and Manual

Brenda Dodd
Oct 23, 2018 6:49:40 PM

Last week I had the pleasure of attending the 83rd Annual International Municipal Lawyers Association Conference in Houston, Texas.  It was a great opportunity for me to step away from my everyday activities to learn from and network with some of the nation’s best local government attorneys.

As the Go To Market owner for FOIA and Public Records here at ZyLAB, it is my job to conduct as much due diligence about the market as possible so my goal for the week was to talk to as many folks that I could about their public records disclosure practice, the good, the bad, and quite frankly the ugly.

The bad

Fortunately for me I did not have to look very hard.  As luck would have it, the very first session of the conference was titled “Sunshine Laws – Key Concepts and Hot Topics”.  The session started with each of the attendees talking about issues and concerns they face when dealing with public records disclosure requests.  It was not surprising to hear many of the common issues that have been reported by our clients, those being the ever increasing number of requests being made, the disparate data, not enough staff, and of course what to do with all this “new stuff” such as body cams, social media and other audio/video data.  But what was most surprising to me was the fact that majority of those in attendance reported that they are still using a very manual process when responding to requests.

The ugly

“Manual”?  In a digital age where technology is so abundant, surely they didn’t mean what I was thinking. They couldn’t possibly still be talking about paper! But there is was the “M” word. Despite the fact that their data for the most part exists in electronic format, many agencies reported that they continue to print and use sharpies to redact exempt information from documents.

It became very clear that, although the public records request landscape is becoming more and more complex, agencies are still employing labor intense, manual methods or using antiquated technology for handling requests.  While they acknowledged that they were well aware of their need to do something to address the burdens and demand being placed on their agencies, many were not sure where to start or what type of technology was available to help.

The good

Fortunately for them, ZyLAB is here to help! Over the last 35 years ZyLAB has been developing eDiscovery tools which are ideally suited to help government agency personnel perform some of the most manual aspects of the public records disclosure process with proven efficiency and accuracy that’s been demonstrated in the legal field for years.

Download the white paper, FOIA - 50 years old but still not in the 21st century, to learn more about why now is the best time for government agencies to equip themselves with eDiscovery technologies to help them comply with Freedom of Information laws.

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