Legal firms are held to the highest standard of data privacy and security. The information handled by lawyers and staff is often confidential in nature, belonging only to clients and kept private within the sacred trust of legal counsel. While your lawyers likely would never dream of breaking the rule of attorney-client privilege, your file system is another matter entirely. There was a time when a locked filing cabinet was all a lawyer needed to keep their client’s matters safe.
However, times have changed. As we digitize everything, the need for law firm cybersecurity has become paramount. Data privacy and security is now a top priority so that your firm can promise and maintain the confidentiality that is at the heart of a trustworthy legal practice. While legal professionals may not be cybersecurity experts, you can ensure that your firm’s data is properly secure and provide that assurance to your clients by understanding the essential elements of data security for a legal practice.
Let’s dive into the essentials of legal data privacy and cybersecurity.
Protecting Digital Attorney-Client Privilege
One of the most valuable things a lawyer provides for clients is the tradition of attorney-client privilege. By law, lawyers cannot disclose any information that was communicated to them in confidentiality by a client. They cannot be forced to disclose this information and clients should be able to absolutely trust their lawyer or legal team to keep their information private, no matter how serious or trivial.
Of course, anything put in writing in the modern day will also likely be stored on a computer. This means that to protect the confidentiality of attorney-client privilege, lawyers must be able to ensure their computers, networks, and online tools are secure – even from other lawyers in their firm. This requires some considerable dedication to cybersecurity.
Secure Document Management
Secure documents have always been a matter of utmost importance in a legal practice. With digital documents, you need a secure document management system. This is a platform designed to hold documents and files. A document manager makes it possible to share documents, archive copies, keep templates, and edit virtual documents on the go. But it should also allow you to keep your legal documents under virtual lock and key.
First, your document manager must be designed to keep external intruders out with heavy-duty firewalls and access protocols. You also need your document manager to keep documents secure from non-authorized members of your practice and shared document platform. This ensures the confidentiality of attorney-client privilege.
IAM Access Controls
IAM or Identity and Access Management, is the technology used to control which user accounts can access specific documents, features, and network areas. In a modern legal practice, IAM is essential to ensure that information is safely compartmentalized with those who are authorized to work with different clients and their cases. Even within a legal partnership, lawyers who take different clients must maintain confidentiality apart from one another, meaning not all lawyers should have access to all documents.
IAM is a clean, efficient way to both grant and restrict access to documents and protected digital assets. IAM, combined with a Policy of Least Trust, sets all documents and assets to ‘no access’ by default, then access is only granted on a need-to-know basis and removed when a person is reassigned, or a case is concluded. This way, each person only has access to the files they need to perform their current duties.
This protects clients and their files, protects your lawyers and staff from accidental breaches, and protects the system if there is an infiltrator or hacker who will face extremely limited document access and no way to put the rest of the file system at risk.
Encryption is an encoding method that renders documents and data unreadable without the decryption key. The best thing about encryption is that if a hacker steals encrypted files, they have nothing. Today’s encryptions are so complex by nature that they cannot be brute force decrypted, so even a stolen archive of data will not reveal confidential information to the hacker.
Some data can be read while ‘in transit’ and some software in a stack of apps used by the firm could potentially expose your data. This is why end-to-end encryption is important to prioritize in your cybersecurity measures. End-to-end encryption ensures your data is encrypted while at rest (storage), in transit (transferring or being called), and in use – always.
Employee Training to Resist Social Hacking
Once firewalls and security protocols have locked down your firm’s digital security, hackers may try an end-around using “social hacking”. This includes scams, phishing emails, infected links, infected documents, and other methods designed to trick the human element of your legal practice’s security structure.
Employee training can help everyone on your team learn to identify phishing and how to use tools to better protect themselves – and the firm – from social hacking. Some methods involve recognizing common patterns used in phishing scams, such as the use of urgency and imperfect impersonation. In addition, your team can learn a few standard operating procedures, like never opening a file on their local computer (only through remote document manager) and scanning files before clicking them.
You can also hold ‘cybersecurity drills’ by faking the occasional phishing attempt. Rewarding those who catch the training emails will motivate your entire team to stay vigilant and ready to catch a real social hacking attempt in action.
Choose Secure Apps to Build Your Software Stack
Lastly, you must be able to rely on every app in your software stack to maintain the high legal standard of cybersecurity. All apps including your time and billing software must have the highest level of security. LawBillity includes a vast array of design methods, features, and precautions to provide the highest grade of digital security for your law firm.
LawBillity offers a robust firewall, SSL encryption, network redundancy, and regular secure data backups. In addition, we issue regular security patches to keep you safe from the latest threats and implement always-on intrusion monitoring of our Amazon S3 hosted services to keep your data safe.
If you are looking for a safe and secure time and billing app look no further than LawBillity, try it free for 14-days today