The work-from-home era has ushered in new standards and expectations. Clients now expect attorneys to be up-to-date with remote working protocols, and that includes digital communications.
Yet there are a host of security concerns law firms must contend with that other businesses don’t need to worry about.
The problem: client confidentiality
In order not to violate the Model Rules of Professional Conduct, attorneys must make a “reasonable effort” to secure client communications. Just as lawyers need to make a reasonable effort to protect physical files, they must do the same for digital ones.
Even before the pandemic, the American Bar Association declared in 2017 that depending on the situation and sensitivity of information, unencrypted email might not offer sufficient security. With the onset of work-from-home orders in the spring of 2020, the Pennsylvania Bar reinforced this decision.
The solution: encrypted email or a secure client portal
Encrypted email makes email content unreadable. It means that even if the message is intercepted, it can’t be read. This is a good precaution to take when emailing sensitive documents.
Another option is to use a secure client portal, which may be offered as part of your practice management system. A portal functions as a digital gateway. To access it, an attorney or client needs a login and password. Once inside, they can share documents and other information securely and use instant communication tools, such as messaging and commenting. Firms should be able to set up a portal for each client matter.
There are some obvious advantages to being able to access all the information at once, versus individual emails. Since portals run on cloud-based technology, they can be accessed through mobile device apps as well.
Professionalism in the digital age includes adapting to problems as they arise. Client confidentiality is no exception. Encrypted email or a secure client portal that’s part of your practice management system are secure solutions that help keep you compliant.