What Should a Law Firm Data Security Policy Contain?

CosmoLex Team

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Data Security Policy

Cyberattacks present a serious threat to law firms. Not only can they cost you client relationships, but they can also damage your wider reputation. And if you didn’t take reasonable steps to safeguard client information, they can leave you in violation of American Bar Association Model Rule 1.6—and sometimes State Bar requirements, too.[1]

To reduce the likelihood of hacked client data, you need to have a solid data security policy in place.

Education

The first step in any data security policy is educating your entire staff. Why? Human error causes 90% of data breaches.[2] Helping your team understand what a sophisticated phishing email looks like can have a huge impact down the line.

Especially if you have staff working remotely, it’s important to educate everyone on necessary security precautions, such as:

  • Using a secure WiFi network or VPN
  • Backing up data with a trusted cloud storage company
  • Understanding how to decide if a website or app isn’t trustworthy
  • Recognizing phishing
  • What to do if a device is lost or stolen
  • Appropriate methods for sending and receiving confidential information
  • Good password practices

Ultimately, your security is only as strong as your employee’s practices.

Encryption and solid passwords

Encrypt any devices used for work—including smartphones! Encryption converts data into code so that it can only be deciphered and read by those with an access key.

For instance, traditional email doesn’t encrypt attachments, so it’s not the best way to send a contract you’re working on for a client. Instead, use your practice management system’s secure online portal.

Likewise, make use of solid passwords or password managers and two-factor authentication.

Internal reviews and mitigation plans

Plan for routine security reviews that help monitor the effectiveness of your policy.[3] It’s easier to make an adjustment now than apologize to clients later.

And don’t forget to create a mitigation plan. People make mistakes, and in a moment of high stress, it’s helpful to have already made informed decisions about what the next steps will be and how you’ll minimize damage.

Finally, tech is always evolving, so understand that your policy will need to be updated with some regularity.


References

1. State Bar of CA: Lawyers Must Protect Clients’ Electronic Data
2. 90% of Data Breaches are Caused by Human Error
3. Four Steps Law Firms Should Take to Reduce Cybersecurity Risks

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