The internet links virtually everyone together these days, and oftentimes the access to it is via wireless Wi-Fi networks.  Work is done at desktop computers, put into thumb drives, and carried out of the office to be worked on later on a laptop computer.  Data is stored in the cloud and accessed remotely.  Offices have hierarchical systems of folders on shared drives, with documents stored there for easy access.

This is all typical for business today.

But attorneys have special needs when it comes to securing their data.  Consider the following from the ABA (American Bar Association) Model Rules of Professional Conduct, Rule 1.6 regarding Confidentiality of Information:

A lawyer shall not reveal information relating to representation of a client unless the client gives informed consent…

In the event of a data breach, client information can be and in fact is often stolen.  Sometimes the theft is not even evident to the firm that has been hacked.  Obviously, the client did not give informed consent for this stolen information to be revealed, but just how liable can an attorney be held if a hacker gained access to confidential case materials?

Ethical and Legal Obligations

Let’s look at more ABA Model Rules, this time Rule 1.1:

“Competent representation requires the legal knowledge, skill, thoroughness and preparation reasonably necessary for the representation.”

Logically, the obligations for both competence and confidentiality would apply to all data—paper, verbal, and that stored on computer systems.  But if there were any doubt, an amendment to the aforementioned Rule 1.6 added the following:

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.

So clearly, as an attorney, you have both ethical and legal obligations to protect client data.  This applies not only to you and your firm, but also to any person participating in the representation of the client in any manner whatsoever.  That is a broad number of persons who can come under threat.  And there are more threats than ever before.

Are you doing enough to protect yourself? 

Attendees at the ABA Conference on Professional Responsibility held May 29, 2014 were able to see a presentation that collected the following information:

  • The National Law Journal reported in March 2010 that a leading information security firm had assisted over 50 law firms after security breaches.
  • In November 2011 the FBI held a meeting for 200 of the largest law firms in New York to advise them about increase cyber-attacks.
  • And the Wall Street Journal in June 2012 summarized the situation nicely: Attorneys have to reboot their skills for the digital age

Yes, it is true that most law firms are not currently facing sophisticated cyber-attacks.  But consider all the hackers, cyber-criminals, disgruntled employees, data spies from the other side in a case, or staff members that might be fooled by a clever malware program.

Attorneys are highly trained individuals, with their education and competence certified by the admission to their Bar Association.  But it is also important for attorneys to recognize that their competence with computer security is likely limited.  They must therefore expend time and energy to become competent and/or consult available data security experts. 

Protect Your Data

5i Solutions offers custom, cutting-edge tech solutions for litigation support and eDiscovery, as well as customized methods of document management and records management.

The important data you need is available for retrieval instantly—but is protected and stored in our Cloud Vault, with encryption, network security, access logs, penetration testing, key management—total access control paired with total security.

You and your law firm safeguard important client data.  And 5i Solutions can safeguard you.

5i Solutions.  One single, secure point of intake, access, and storage.  One singular solution. 5i Solutions, Inc.

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