Attorneys are understandably concerned about the security of their clients’ data and their own liability if they suffer a data breach. The need for law firm data security is more important than ever. With data breaches becoming a common occurrence, the threat of having your information compromised must be considered by every modern lawyer. The American Bar Association’s Model Rule 1.6(c) states,
“A lawyer shall make reasonable efforts to prevent the inadvertent or unauthorized disclosure of, or unauthorized access to, information relating to the representation of a client.”
The definition of “reasonable efforts” is left vague. There are many steps a lawyer can take, however, to prevent data breaches and other unauthorized access to the information of their clients. If you go above and beyond what is recommended to secure your data, you can be confident that your clients and business are protected.
A practical step to take to make sure your data is protected is to secure the files you send to clients. Sending sensitive data over email is risky because hackers have the potential to obtain information about your clients or your business. A phishing attack is when a hacker tricks you into entering your email password on a website they own. Accidentally giving your password to a hacker can be devastating if you are not prepared. When every file you have sent to your clients is stored in your email, a hacker has complete control if they obtain your email password. With access to this sensitive information, they can use it against you, your staff, your law firm, or your clients. They can also use your email contact list to spread their malware to your clients and coworkers.
An alternative to sending files through email would be to use a secure document portal. There are many types of systems to manage your documents, with the most popular options being Google Drive and Dropbox. There are also systems designed specifically for lawyers where you can restrict access to files at any time and integrate with practice management software. Make sure your chosen document portal meets American Bar Association law firm data security standards.
One of the worst-case scenarios for your law firm would be to lose access to all your case and client data. This is always a possibility when you store everything on physical servers or hard drives in your office. Among the worst-case scenarios, fire or flood in your office can wipe out your physical servers, and you can lose all your firm’s data. If you do decide to use physical servers, an off-site backup is essential.
Ransomware is a relatively new threat, but it’s no less dangerous for your firm. In ransomware attacks, a hacker accesses sensitive data on your server (such as client financial information) and threatens to release or sell it until you pay a cryptocurrency ransom. Another method is for the hacker to lock your servers, holding your information hostage, and preventing work from being done until the money is paid. If you decide to use a physical server, you must maintain a talented and experienced IT professional or team who can prevent ransomware attacks.
Rather than paying for expensive servers, backups, and IT staff, there is a more straightforward solution to keeping your firm’s data secure. Storing your data on the cloud can provide bank-level law firm data security without the extraordinary price tag. Small firms and solo practitioners often can not afford to pay for top-of-the-line data management and security for physical servers. Storing data in the cloud can give attorneys the same level of protection for a fraction of the price.
As an example, Amazon Web Services is one of the top cloud computing companies. When you store data with Amazon, you know you’ll be getting the best combination of security and reliability available. Best of all, you don’t have to break the bank to have your data protected by the same company that manages the data of Fortune 500 companies and government agencies. Moving data to the cloud is becoming more and more common every year. It could be the perfect time to make that switch and protect your practice from the many risks of a physical server.
Cloud servers, however, are not without their disadvantages. Since they are accessed via the internet, you could suffer from downtime if your internet connection is slow or spotty. Cloud servers also might not provide the same flexibility and control as a physical server. An experienced IT professional might be more comfortable working with a physical server and being able to adjust any possible setting. As with everything, do your research. When shopping for cloud practice management systems, ask the company for details about their cloud providers, including server location, average uptime, and data security.
Whether it’s hackers, ransomware, or physical dangers like fire and flood, the threats to law firms are more severe than ever. Cloud document and data storage can be a solution for law firms looking to provide their clients with more security. If you’re working with a reputable cloud company, cloud servers will be more secure, more reliable, and more trustworthy. LEAP is a cloud-based practice management software that provides everything you need to run a small law firm. LEAP offers case management, automated forms, accounting, and a legal mobile app, all powered by Amazon Web Services on the cloud. Learn about how making the switch to LEAP can keep your law firm secure.