The Challenge of Data Loss Prevention in the Law Firm Context
Data loss prevention—the protection of sensitive data from security breaches and unauthorized access—is a challenge for every organization. But for law firms, data protection poses an even more significant hurdle, due to lawyers’ need to balance two conflicting demands. Yes, lawyers need to prevent the loss or misuse of sensitive data, but they must simultaneously maintain open communications with their clients.
To make matters worse, law firms are still commonly seen as targets for hackers, both because they are entrusted with their clients’ most sensitive (and potentially most financially valuable) data, and because they’re still not viewed as technologically savvy.
Avoiding security breaches, data theft, and unauthorized data access is critical to protecting your firm’s reputation. And while it may be possible to recover your reputation after a breach, it’s obviously easier to avoid it altogether. Here are three ways to get started.
1. Actively prioritize data security and loss prevention.
Yes, you know data loss prevention is important—but are your actions in line with your words? If not, start by establishing what you’re willing to do to protect your data. Set aside a realistic budget and evaluate whether you have the personnel you need to ensure data security. Realize, too, that it’s not enough to hire a CISO if you don’t empower that role with the authority to take effective action.
If you historically haven’t given data security more than lip service, it’s time to get serious. Even if you think you’ve avoided trouble so far, that doesn’t mean you’ll continue to. Plus, you might have already been targeted and you just don’t know it yet, as some data breaches take years to come to light. Don’t take our word for it; ask Yale.
2. Think holistically about the data you have and where it’s vulnerable.
Evaluate your risks across the spectrum of work you do and the data repositories you have. Consider people, processes, and technology. Ensure that you’re providing sufficient education and training; people are still the weakest link in data protection. Evaluate your processes around using, sending, sharing, and downloading information. Are you protecting data while it’s in use, in transit, and at rest, through access controls and encryption? Are you mindful of what you might be sharing in your metadata? Determine where your data is most vulnerable and start by implementing tools and processes to address those risks.
3. Be realistic with your approach and avoid disrupting workflows.
We’ve all seen “solutions” that are so restrictive that no one follows them after the initial rollout. Avoid creating policies or implementing technologies that are so burdensome, time-consuming, or disruptive that no one will use them. Most lawyers have long-established and very effective workflows around their client communications. Look for processes and technologies that will not disrupt those workflows. Otherwise, you’ll find that your staff will devise workarounds to short-circuit your attempted solutions, and you’ll be right back where you started.
We’ve written a white paper about data loss prevention, which sets out our three-layer model to safeguarding data without impeding communications or disrupting workflows. We’ll also be hosting a webinar on February 21, 2019, at 10:30am CST to talk more about how law firms can implement data loss prevention processes and tools to protect their most sensitive data. Please join us—we’d love to show you how our products and services are making law firms better at data loss prevention.