The digital age has made it easier for law firms to increase profitability by driving productivity. In a recent post, we shared the top legal trends of 2019, one of which is a shift toward process-driven software, such as case management and document management systems. Many firms today rely on technology solutions to help store, manage, and execute copious legal documents and transactional agreements.
Digital document management solutions make it easier for lawyers to quickly generate documents, speed up negotiations, and more easily manage the myriad of documents associated with each case. Though these technologies help greatly reduce inefficiencies, there are some important considerations to keep in mind to ensure legal document security. In this post, we highlight five questions your firm should address to expose any weak points in your technologies and secure your legal documents and client data.
Five Steps to Better Legal Document Security
1) Is your system compliant with regulations?
One consideration to keep in mind with any new tool or integration is compliance with industry regulations. No matter the size of your legal firm, you and your staff will undoubtedly face a complex framework of regulations, including the Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act, or the E-Sign Act.
The federal act, passed in 2000, grants recognition to electronic signatures if certain conditions are met, such as intent to sign, consent to do business electronically, signature association, and record retention. Before you invest in any new tool or processes, make sure your legal documents – and the underlying technology you use – are in compliance with the E-Sign Act. This may, in fact, require you to rely on both offline and online processes to ensure compliance.
2) Is your technology trustworthy?
This may sound obvious, but the second step is to make sure that any tool you choose to implement is trustworthy and secure. But how do you know if you can trust the security of a given tool? First, do your research. There are a lot of different options in the marketplace. For example, the American Bar Association offers an online ‘buyers guide’ where you can explore various technology options and find the right tool for your firm. Though the directory offers a great starting point, each listing in the guide is provided by an individual sponsor and should not be the entirety of your research.
Plan to spend some time reading reviews on several different tools and ask colleagues about their experiences, both good and bad. Legal conferences and events are also great places to connect with other platform users for first-hand testimonials. Take the time to look into each tool across similar metrics, like initial and ongoing cost and the level of training and support provided. As you explore your options, also keep in mind your current internal systems and how the tool will or will not seamlessly integrate with ongoing operations.
Another effective way to research your options is to partner with a technology services provider, like N8 Solutions, who can help you ask the right questions early on to select the ideal electronic document or case management solution for your unique firm.
3) Are my APIs secure?
If you’re internal systems rely on any integrations, such as e-signing applications, it’s crucial to identify any loopholes or vulnerabilities in the actual software, as well as integrations with the software. Be sure to secure any Application Programming Interface, or API, which can leave you open to intrusion or cyberattack. (Essentially, an API is the interface which lets one program speak to another by exchanging data in the background, behind the scenes. By definition and function, we often don’t recognize that we’re utilizing an API. See this earlier post on APIs for more.)
Unfortunately, as cybercriminals develop new tactics to compromise business data, APIs might be one of the next points of entry and target for attackers. APIs present a risk for many reasons, including increased visibility, shared responsibility, and simply more opportunities. Despite this, APIs can be worth the risk when you have the proper security or support in place to retain the integrity of your legal documents. Our third tip, then, is to take appropriate measures to build, implement, and use APIs in a safe yet scalable way, often by working with a trusted service provider to assess risk and proactively thwart attacks.
4) Are my documents backed up?
Document backup is incredibly important. Our fourth tip to increase legal document security is to make sure your firm has backup and recovery options in place to ensure that you don’t lose access to your information. But just having a back-up plan in place isn’t enough; a poorly designed or managed plan is almost as good as not having one at all.
We suggest working with an expert to establish a backup plan that works for your unique firm. One decision you’ll need to make is whether to choose a traditional or cloud-based backup solution; a decision that is often based on your timing, recoverability, and scalability needs. Each approach has its own advantages and disadvantages. For example, you might start with several questions to help inform your decision:
Do I have a particularly large amount of data and documents?
How long can my firm operate in the event of a data disruption?
Can we continue operations and serve our clients without access to files for only an hour? A day? A week?
What industry or legal requirements do I have for uptime and recoverability?
Do I work with personal protected information?
5) How secure is your overall network?
Lastly, always keep in mind that your legal documents are only as secure as your people and your processes. Protections range from better password management to partnering with vendors on network monitoring services. Any sort of transition from a paper to a traditional or cloud-based digital solution – or any integration between the two – won’t happen overnight and it will require strategic preparation, training, and support.
At the same time, please remember that network security doesn’t have to be a barrier in moving toward the future of the legal industry! One resource suggests that cloud-based security fears are easing for a few reasons, including more mature security standards in modern tools and the role of professional, dedicated vendors, not to mention general industry trends and client expectations.
Keeping Legal Documents Secure in 2019 and Beyond
As clients ask for greater value and speed from their legal service providers, digital document management solutions offer an effective way to streamline efforts across your business processes. However, the caveat here is to approach document management solutions with a comprehensive focus on security to block intrusions, prevent data loss, and keep your firm in a state of continuous operations. This includes everything we mentioned above – from making sure you’re in compliance with regulations to verifying the security of your APIs.
One sure-fire approach to cover all bases is to partner with a third-party provider. Qualified vendors (like us!) will provide customized and expert network security solutions all wrapped up into any e-signing, document storage, or case management implementation. In fact, upgrading to a new tool is a perfect opportunity for a more robust security check-up to ensure top-notch protection for your entire firm, from your people to your processes to your technology.
Further, law firms are our specialty! We’re experts at legal technology platforms and are available to help with any migration or installation (like SmartAdvocate), from set-up to long-term monitoring and support. At N8 Solutions, we take a tailored approach to consider all internal and external factors and deliver a result that truly benefits you.
Please get in touch with us today to figure out what will be the most advantageous tools for your firm in a way that keeps you and your legal documents safe, secure, and scalable in 2019 and beyond.