In the wake of the pandemic, the adoption of cloud technology and remote workforces in the legal sector accelerated. This drastic change left lawyers and law firms trying to manage new security vulnerabilities such as malware, ransomware and data breaches.

Despite the risks, cloud technology offers many benefits to law firms. Luckily, there are steps your firm can take to reduce the risks faced.

What the Cloud Can Offer Law Firms

Cloud technology offers many benefits to businesses, particularly those with remote workforces, including law firms.

Many cloud software vendors offer law practice management software applications for email, calendaring, integrated billing and client management, easily facilitating your remote workforce management. Plus, cloud technology offers law firms many benefits including:

  • Cost savings
  • Flexibility
  • Data accessibility
  • Secure collaboration and more

However, due to the unique nature of the legal profession, law firms employing cloud technology for their remote workforces face additional risks that other business sectors do not. Legal obligations to exercise due diligence, protect attorney-client privilege and safeguard technical systems and data will apply.

Lawyers using cloud technology and law firms working remotely should consider key ethical implications and attempt to manage the risk.

How Law Firms Can Manage the Risk

There are steps that lawyers and law firms can take to minimize the chance of loss or exposure of sensitive documents and information through malware, ransomware, data breach or other security vulnerabilities that can impact cloud software.

When engaging with third-party cloud technology providers, take the time to carefully review the vendor’s Service Level Agreement and use the following risk control techniques to help manage ethical and professional risks:

  1. Verify the vendor’s business model, financial stability, background and their procedures for data handling should the vendor go out of business.
  2. Ensure the vendor conforms to the highest industry standards for data security, data encryption and security audit procedures.
  3. Confirm your firm will own your data and all its rights.
  4. Ensure the vendor won’t have access that jeopardizes the attorney-client privilege.
  5. Confirm the vendor will assume legal liability and responsibility for data confidentiality and that there are no liability limitations for a breach.
  6. Ensure the vendor’s compliance with HIPAA, the HITECH Act and other state and federal privacy and confidentiality laws.
  7. Verify the physical location of the vendor’s data storage facilities and equipment and review the vendor’s choice of law provision in the Service Level Agreement.
  8. Determine control for levels of access for lawyers, support staff and clients.
  9. Confirm procedures for contract termination, ensuring that your data will be returned to your firm in a usable format with the vendor’s copies subsequently and permanently deleted from servers.
  10. Inquire about other representative clients of the vendor, such as corporations in data-sensitive industries and, ideally, other law firms.

Cloud technology and remote or hybrid workforces are here to stay for the foreseeable future.

New innovations that allow for greater mobility and connectivity can positively impact the legal profession. But make sure you understand the added level of risk and additional obligations lawyers and law firms face.

Review your ethical and professional obligations when using cloud technology and do your due diligence when choosing to work with third-party cloud technology vendors.

Information provided by Lockton Affinity is not intended as legal advice.