The public nature of the legal system means that law firms are particularly vulnerable to cybersecurity risks like data leaks and ransomware, making legal security (legalsec) critical for businesses in the law industry.

In fact, according to the ABA’s 2021 Legal Technology Survey report, 25 percent of the survey’s respondents reported that their law firm had suffered a cybersecurity breach at some time. 

Law firms store a plethora of data about both businesses and people, but this sheer volume of data makes it difficult for law practices to keep track of sensitive data and how it’s being used - leading to potential compliance issues and cybersecurity risks.

To protect the confidentiality of sensitive data, law firms are obligated to protect data as it moves across their record keeping, document management systems and between partner law firms. 

However, data privacy and data protection requirements are different depending on the countries in which your business operates in. In this blog, we take a look at why law firms are vulnerable to cyber threats, and how they can better secure their data.

YOUR GUIDE TO DATA PROTECTION FOR LAW FIRMS

Why are law firms vulnerable to cyber threats?

The very nature of the legal system means data and sensitive personal information is vulnerable to being exposed as it passes through knowledge sharing systems and court reporting systems. 

The sheer amount of data being collected and stored means law firms are very likely to have an unknown volume of sensitive personal data stored across fragmented systems, giving them an increasingly growing attack surface that makes their firm vulnerable to threats.

On top of that, the vast majority of law firms have failed to see the importance of investing in cybersecurity. These hiring and technology budget restrictions have left them with limited resources when it comes to tracking and controlling sensitive data. 

Legalsec guidance for US law firms

Just like any industry, law firms are heavily regulated by data privacy laws in the regions and countries that they collect and use sensitive data, which dictate how they collect, store and use personally identifiable information (PII) and case data.

In the US, law firms primarily follow cybersecurity guidance provided through the American Bar Association, which defines cybersecurity as: “Cybersecurity is the protection of computer systems from theft and damage. The ABA monitors key ethical issues and special considerations regarding cybersecurity and the legal profession.”

Read our blog, A Complete Guide to US Data Privacy Laws, for more information regarding data privacy laws that law firms in the US may be required to comply with. 

US law firms are subject to industry rules and regulations related to the information they use, store and share, as well as state level data privacy requirements in regards to personally identifiable information.

Legalsec guidance for Canadian law firms

Meanwhile, in Canada law firms are provided guidance by the Canadian Bar Association (CBA) and its provincial branches such as the Ontario Bar Association (OBA). 

The Personal Information Protection and Electronic documents Act (PIPEDA) is the primary guideline for data privacy for Canadian law firms, although they are also subject to rules and regulations based on data types, industry and state/regional level requirements. 

Canadian law firms may also be required to comply with US data privacy laws (as well as other countries), depending on whether they offer (or share) services abroad.

Data discovery is the bedrock of robust legalsec initiatives

Protecting your law firm’s data from exposure isn’t only critical to complying with data privacy regulations, it’s also crucial in mitigating reputational risk and ensuring your business remains profitable long into the future.

To ensure they are able to achieve this, law firms must focus on data discovery so they know exactly what data they have and where it lives, and data classification so they can mitigate unstructured data across their network. 

Having visibility into the data you store across your law firm (data discovery) and the types of data you’re accumulating (data classification) forms the foundation that law firms need to improve data protection initiatives and comply with data privacy regulations. 

Are you interested in learning more about how your law firm can improve its data protection strategy and better achieve data privacy compliance through a data discovery solution?

View the Cavelo virtual demo today

We’ve developed an innovative platform that helps law firms easily, and cost-effectively, adopt automated data discovery and classification so that they can gain complete visibility and control over their data - no matter where it is.

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