Why Law Firms Should Invest in Cybersecurity

by Brad Garland

For lawyers who may juggle a morning court appearance followed by an afternoon spent inside corporate boardroom meetings, the issue of cybersecurity may seem a distant, low priority. However, law firms should emphasize cybersecurity as a top concern because of the sensitive information they have to handle, both inside and outside of the courtroom. Cyber attackers target sensitive information of corporate victims – who presents a better target for cyber threats than the law firms which represent these corporate victims in highly lucrative legal matters? BigLaw, after all, is big business.

Further compounding this potential threat are the legacy IT systems many firms use, which are often outdated, and vulnerable to security breach incidents. Whether an attack begins by plugging in an infected flash drive, or by clicking on a malicious e-mail attachment, the end result remains the same: the theft of valuable, and often confidential, information. Identifying and mitigating such risks should be a top priority for every law firm.

What are the consequences of a cybersecurity incident at my law firm?

Law firms face legal, financial, and reputational risks following a cybersecurity incident. Lawyers maintain professional and ethical obligations to their clients, including a promise to keep their client data confidential. If an attacker successfully accesses highly sensitive trade secret information from a law firm’s data bases, the law firm may be in violation of such obligations if the breach could in fact have been prevented by minimum cybersecurity measures. Following a breach, existing and potential clients may turn to a more information-secure law firm to handle their legal needs. This domino effect can irreparably sink a small or mid-size firm that relies on word-of-mouth to secure new clients.  

Ok, I’m convinced. When should my law firm invest in cybersecurity?

The short answer is: Better now than later. Investing in proactive cybersecurity, just like investing in anything else worthwhile, requires sufficient time and resources. You will need time to patch your existing systems, install new upgrades, and overhaul your policies and procedures. Key among these concerns is implementing an incident response plan, which will lay out a predetermined plan of action in the event of a security incident. As of 2018, only 25% of law firms reported having an incident response plan. Responding to a data breach after the fact is vastly more expensive than preventing one. 

Perhaps most importantly, you will need to ensure all staff are trained on best practices and are given walk-through scenarios to prepare for the unexpected. Additionally, law firms should ensure cybersecurity practices of third-party vendors are properly vetted, which is good practice because your firm will most likely face the same scrutiny from its clients!

I understand my law firm needs to prepare now. What’s the best way to invest in cybersecurity?

Start by realizing that cybersecurity is as much a mindset as it is a technological discipline. If you are a partner of your law firm, or the head of its IT department, prioritize cybersecurity from the top down. If you are a large law firm, create a cross-practice team of IT employees and lawyers to devise a security strategy. If you consider yourself a small to medium-sized law firm, ensure every member of the firm receives adequate cybersecurity training as a part of your overall strategy. 

Depending on their practice areas, law firms have to adhere to multiple regulations per industry, and the challenge of handling them as one-offs is nearly impossible for in-house departments. A security strategist who can help navigate the differences of—and often many similarities between—the clients, is where our expertise is useful. We can help you become the hero of your law firm’s information security, enabling you to take charge of cybersecurity and put everyone’s minds at ease so you can focus on providing the best possible results for your clients. 

To learn more about our cybersecurity services for the legal industry, contact us to schedule a call. We’re here to help.