Data security has become a top-of-mind concern for law firms of all sizes as lawyers and staff transition to working remotely either fully or partially.
And if you’re using the same old methods to communicate with clients and staff, you might be putting your practice at risk.
That’s why some state bar associations are tightening their ethical guidelines for using remote technologies. The Pennsylvania Bar Association, for example, has issued a formal ethics opinion establishing minimum standards – such as using encryption for all communications that are “particularly sensitive.”
“One of the greatest challenges lawyers have encountered when shifting to remote work has been finding ways to effectively and securely communicate and collaborate with colleagues and clients,” writes attorney and self-styled “legal tech evangelist” Nicole Black in this ABA Journal article. “Many law firms simply weren’t equipped with the tools needed to communicate while working remotely. The good news is that today’s lawyers have more choices than ever when it comes to sharing updates and collaborating with colleagues and clients remotely. The key is to carefully and thoughtfully choose digital communication tools that are conducive to efficient online collaboration, while also sufficiently protecting client confidentiality.”
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3 Remote Tools That Must Be Secure
Here are a trio of digital communication tools that you probably use every day, plus some safety pointers from Nicole Black’s ABA Journal piece (all quotes are hers).
1. Videoconferencing tools. “If videoconferencing is new to you, you’re probably using Zoom, which is arguably the most popular platform for video meetings, since it now provides end-to-end encryption, and it is both affordable and user-friendly. Other videoconferencing options to consider that likewise provide end-to-end encryption include Webex and GoToMeeting. Alternatively, if your firm uses Outlook for email via Office 365 Business, Microsoft Teams might be your best bet.”
2. Messaging tools. “Streamlined internal law firm communication is critical. Lawyers need to be able to obtain the information they need when they need it. Written memos and documents can sometimes fill the gap, but oftentimes, people are the only ones who can provide the required facts. That’s where instant messaging and texting tools come in. Using messaging platforms, you can instantaneously chat with colleagues and share and collaborate on documents. One of the most popular platforms for instant chat and collaboration is Slack…. [A]nother option to consider, especially if your firm already uses Microsoft Office 365, is Microsoft Teams, which also provides teamwide chat capabilities in addition to the videoconferencing tools. Texting is also a popular option, but using a personal cellphone is problematic for any number of reasons, including privacy issues and the inability to save chats and associate them with cases.”
3. Online communication portals. “Taking phone calls or answering emails can be disruptive when you’re working remotely, and neither form of communication is very streamlined or efficient. Phone calls can lead to convoluted, often lengthy discussions; while threaded email chains are typically hard to follow. That’s why web-based communication portals, which are often built into law practice management software, should be your firm’s communication method of choice over email. Not only are online portals more secure, as discussed above, they’re also more efficient, since all discussions related to cases and case-related events and documents are grouped together and easily accessible using any internet-enabled device, 24/7, day or night. Documents and other digital files can be uploaded and downloaded using the portals, and lawyers can share and collaborate on them with colleagues and clients.”
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