The most common methods of sharing documents with clients, opposing firms, and others may be placing you and your firm at risk. In this first of a three-part series, we explain why.
How many emails have you sent or received in the past week? And how many times have you wondered whether your messages were secure? Whether you know it or not, every time you click “send”, you may be placing you or your firm at risk.
In this first of a three-part series, we look at the dangers of insecure document sharing. In our second installment we examine the pros and cons of the three top document sharing methods. And in our final article we explain how to implement secure document sharing.
Where it all started
With the advent of email, document sharing became easy. No need to wait for a courier. All you needed to do to share a document with a client, opposing firm, or third party was to specify the recipient, attach your document, and send. Several days later, sitting in your inbox was an edited version of your document that you manually checked against your original draft.1
Whether you knew it or not, this process exposed you and your document to all kinds of risks, from “bad actors” to simple human error. (More about this in Part 2). Yet, email is still a prevalent means of exchanging legal documents, and many firms are not taking the measures they should to properly protect confidential client information.2
Can you be trusted?
Your reputation depends on the trust your clients place in you. So, it follows that protecting their privileged information, whether in transit or storage, should be a top priority. But cyber hacking and simple human error can put that trust at risk when you share documents through less-than-secure methods. Tax records, intellectual property, health information, and more could be exposed to others with less-than-noble intentions.
A lawyer or firm that allows confidential information to be compromised, even if unintentionally, could be held responsible. According to a recent report, 46% of legal malpractice claims arose from administrative errors.3 Most jurisdictions have rules that require lawyers to properly protect their clients’ confidential information. The Law Society of Ontario, for example, spells this out in the Rules of Professional Conduct.4 And in the US, the American Bar Association recently rendered an opinion that addresses confidentiality obligations for e-mail communications.5
Document Sharing Pros and Cons
There are newer and safer ways to exchange documents. We’ll describe those in our last installment. But before we go there, we’ll look at the most popular modes of document sharing – email, thumb drives, and consumer document-sharing services – and their pros and cons. Watch for inbox for our next installment in this series, “Secure Document Sharing Part 2”.
About Michael Sauber
Michael Sauber leads the marketing program for Korbitec, producer of Automated Civil Litigation Software (ACL). He has worked with document production technologies and professional services for over 30 years and is a frequent blogger on these topics.
1 Fox-Mills, Alexis. The importance of secure file sharing for law firms. workshare.com. February 1, 2017.
2 Christopher T. Anderson and Dan Barahona. When “secure enough” isn’t enough: A Law Firm Guide to Protecting the Confidentiality of Shared Client Files. LexisNexis. January 8, 2018.
3 Profile of Legal Malpractice Claims: 2012-2015. American Bar Association Standing Committee on Lawyers’ Professional Liability. September 2015.
4 Rules of Professional Conduct, Chapter 3, Section 3.3. Law Society of Ontario. Amended October 2014.
5 Securing Communication of Protected Client Information. American Bar Association. May 4, 2017.