The Mobile Lawyer and Secure Communications

May 23, 2016

Author–Kristi Perdue Hinkle

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Lawyers today work anywhere and everywhere, frequently from airports, coffee shops, client or home offices. Like most organizations today, many law firms and legal departments allow lawyers to use personal devices for work (BYOD), or supply their lawyers with company/firm-owned devices (COPE). According to the American Bar Association (ABA), 91% of lawyers use smart phones. It is no overstatement to say that lawyers have gone mobile, using laptops, smartphones and tablets to support clients 24×7.

While Lawyers’ mobile devices are chock full of efficiency Apps for legal research, billable time recording and practice management, client crises can happen at any time and clients expect their lawyers to respond instantly. Lawyers constantly use their phones to communicate with clients via email about matters and to schedule meetings. However, with clients’ demand for immediate responses and lawyers’ own thirst for increased efficiency, lawyer texting is on the rise.  According to the 2015 Mobile Marketing Watch, text messages have a 98% open rate, while email has only a 20% open rate.  Even more interesting to me – text has a 45% response rate, while email only has a 6% response rate.

This alone speaks to the draw of text to have asynchronous conversations with real-time response vs. waiting for the elusive email response that may never happen. Patience being a virtue seems to be a thing of the past when it comes to technological innovations for communication.  Just like the rest of us, mobile lawyers and their clients like the convenience of texting for quick conversations and decision making.

Security and the Mobile Lawyer

The desire to leverage the efficiency of these communications does bring new security concerns. To meet their duties of confidentiality and competence, lawyers must secure client data from breaches like the Panama Papers, as well as  from any exposure that jeopardizes attorney-client privilege and loses client trust. This requires a special focus on mobility in your cyber security strategy and should not be taken lightly. Although there are many security concerns, when considering the “mobile lawyer” there are three key areas that come to mind that should be addressed when considering how lawyers work: the lawyers’ use of text, their actual use of the device and communicating while traveling.

The text revolution. As text is slowly becoming the communication tool of choice, and the “new” email, firms must pay attention so they don’t repeat the same mistakes of the past.  Email is one of the highest risk tools that firms use today, and a primary target of hackers. Rather than allow lawyers to use native SMS and unsecure texting, clients and their law firms must equip lawyers with the appropriate tools for secure messaging, enabling confidential conversations with clients and third parties that also help ensure compliance with regulations such as PCI, HIPAA and Graham Leach Bliley.

Securing the device. The walls of the legal office have long since extended outside the bounds of brick and mortar. The mobile device is a huge security concern for most IT executives. What happens if the device falls into the wrong hands or is left in a taxi by accident? Are lawyers and staff using public Wi-Fi to access email or to do research? The fact is, it only takes criminals a brief amount of time – seconds – to mask a public Wi-Fi, or to figure out passwords to open up the treasure trove of sensitive information on a mobile device. Suddenly all those ultra-private electronic communications on IPO pricing, pending patent file dates or a corruption investigation are at potential disclosure risk, along with a failure to uphold the lawyer’s professional obligations. Again firms and legal departments must consider the impact of lost data and how available SaaS based tools for secure messaging can better protect client data and reinforce trust.

Travel with confidence. Today’s mobile lawyers travel constantly, all over the country and world. Many travel to areas known to be less secure and even aggressive when it comes to cyber surveillance. There are also countries where customs officers are known to seize devices for “quick checks” of the information they contain. Rightfully so, lawyers and their clients worry about the security of devices and communication methods while traveling abroad, however still require a high standard of responsiveness. Firms and legal departments should investigate encrypted, secure messaging alternatives for traveling lawyers so that they can communicate with confidence.
To meet all these legal efficiency, responsiveness, security, regulatory and professional obligations, Vaporstream offers lawyers a secure, SaaS-based text messaging platform. Providing two-way encryption, information governance, patented security controls and ephemerality, Vaporstream ensures secure and private attorney-client and third party communications.

To find out more about how Vaporstream can help law firms and legal departments better address their security posture with secure, ephemeral and compliant messaging contact us and read the datasheet entitled Legal: The Mobile Lawyer.

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