All companies have a responsibility to secure client documents, but the legal professional has an extended ethical obligation. Your legal professional has some of your most personal and business information and they must be diligent with security and securing legal documents.
According to the American Bar Association, there are more than 1.3 million licensed attorneys in the United States. Wikipedia reports that 58 million consumers seek the counsel of legal professionals annually. Think about the services that are provided by an attorney and the type of information they retain on clients - divorces, estates, business information, personal and business criminal matters and medical information are just some of the most common. Now think about how that data is sent, received and retained over the years by that legal professional.
Obligations to Secure Legal Documents
Most likely your attorney will have confidential information about you and your business ranging from personally identifiable information—name, address, social security number; financial information, purchase agreements and employee data. If this information were to be compromised, the identity of you, your family members, employees and your business affairs would be at risk.
According to the American Bar Association’s ethical obligations, a lawyer must act competently to safeguard information relating to the representation of a client against inadvertent or unauthorized disclosure by the lawyer or other persons who are participating in the representation of the client or who are subject to the lawyer’s supervision. Therefore, it is the duty of the attorney to secure legal documents, which extends to the practice of the firm.
Exchanging Information With Your Legal Professional
While it might be clear what information is at risk and what's expected of the attorney - how do you share your legal records? You've probably been asked to fax, send via unsecure email or upload via a website before, assuming this is a secure method. Most people comply with their “legal professional” without thinking twice. When sharing your legal documents, you should question anyone who asks for information in an unsecure manner.
Here are 10 Ways to Secure Legal Documents
Legal professionals have a duty to be concerned about security and protecting the identity of clients and their information. Proper security controls are not difficult to implement quickly. Outlined below are just a few of the most important items that must be considered immediately.
- Only exchange confidential information over a secure channel
- Encrypt all information once received
- Scan all paper documents into a secure encrypted vault for safe keeping
- Back up information and keep an audit trail of documents sent and received
- Only provide a secure portal for clients to upload documents
- Only use secure email both as a sender and a receiver
- Scan incoming documents to protect against a virus and scan outgoing documents to prevent loss of information by an inside source
- Use proper identity and access management tools
- Use a secure VPN connection when using mobile devices
- Use a Cloud Access Security Broker solution when interacting with cloud storage
The Threats & Risks Are Real
According to a Wall Street Journal article in March of 2016, hackers broke into the computer networks of several prestigious law firms. Although it isn’t clear what information, if any, was stolen - the law firms represent fortune 500 companies and Wall Street banks in everything from lawsuits to multibillion-dollar merger negotiations. The amount of confidential information that the law firms have is significant and could cause harm to their clients if data were to be compromised. Securing legal records must be a top priority by legal professionals all over the world.
Safe-T’s Security Solution
SDE enables organizations to broker, control and secure data exchange of any type and size between people, applications, cloud solutions, and businesses. It offers secure email, encrypted vaults, connectors to antivirus scanning and data loss prevention systems to protect information end to end. The solution will assist in securing legal records by maximizing security and minimizing information loss and can be installed in a matter of days not weeks.
Whether you are a small or large law firm, you must be diligent and adopt proper security practices. The consequences are devastating and can lead to identity compromise, litigation, reputational, and/or financial loss for you and your clients. Take the necessary step now to secure legal records properly once and for all, as you owe it to your clients.
Editor's Note: This post was originally published in November 2016 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.