Guest post: Collaboration and security: how the language of spymasters is shaping mobility in the legal profession

Steve Whiter of business mobility specialists Appurity considers the issues and opportunities around secure mobile collaboration.

It is in the nature of lawyers to be cautious, at least in their professional capacity. Where client data and confidentiality are concerned the stakes are incredibly high, which means that all risks are amplified.

The consequences of a breach of security could be catastrophic, for clients and law firms alike, whether it’s a question of reputational damage, or material loss, or, most likely, both.

Yet clients expect lawyers to be more responsive, more available and more technology-literate than ever before. Clients who are used to getting whatever they want, whenever they want it – from the latest blockbuster novel to an Uber – are starting to assume that all providers of the services they need can give them the same level of immediate gratification.

This technology-driven social and commercial revolution has brought to the fore an issue that has challenged societies from the earliest days of what we call civilisation. How do governments, or leaders, balance security and protection for the State – or the organisation – with freedom for the people they govern?

Too much regulation, and the people will rebel; too little, and they will abuse the freedoms they are given. This is the received wisdom that informs the debate about Internet security, and issues of freedom of expression on the worldwide web.

For law firms, the balance is expressed in the trade-off between increased mobility for lawyers, and the need to protect confidential data, from the core of the network to the most aging and vulnerable endpoint, whether that endpoint is a lawyer, or the device he or she is using.

There is another critical point in the flow of legal information, and that is when law firms are exchanging information as part of a matter in which two or more firms are engaged. This may be anything from a simple property purchase, through to the complex acquisition of a business, or a criminal case.

In the UK, all law firms must comply with the profession’s own regulations on data protection and security. But if your firm is dealing with a practice whose IT security policies and processes are less rigorous than your own, then your clients’ data and privacy are at risk as soon as any files move from one network to the other. And you cannot afford to wait until a breach has taken place to discover where the vulnerabilities were to be found.

One of the technologies that our clients in the legal profession have been adopting is BlackBerry® Workspaces, which is part of the BlackBerry Secure suite of mobile security solutions

Workspaces is an example of an Enterprise File Sharing and Synchronisation (EFSS) tool, which secures your files and data even if they move onto another network.

This is a solution developed in response to two of the ‘buzzword’ challenges that are shaping technology strategy for the legal profession: collaboration and protection. Technologists do like a bit of drama, and no doubt the Le Carre-esque frisson of undercover intrigue put these terms into the otherwise prosaic language of networks and data security.

With EFSS solutions like Workspaces, all authorised users can have access to the files they need, and share them. This, of course, is what is meant by collaboration in the digital world: the ability for people working together on a project – or in this case a legal matter – to share information safely and communicate with each other, using digital technologies instead of paper and telephones.

One of the key capabilities of Workspaces where collaboration between practices is concerned is that it has DocuSign integration. This means that where legally-binding signatures are required, electronic contracts can be incorporated into the Digital Rights Management technology within Workspaces.

It is also possible to keep track of who has read or commented on a document, which can help with keeping matters moving. This function is also useful with internal communications, allowing management teams to ensure that everyone is up to date with policies and procedures.

History is littered with examples of security systems that have failed at the point where humans get involved, from the Trojan horse, to the Brink’s-Mat robbery and any number of recent malicious cyber attacks. But an effective EFSS solution can help to eliminate many of the vulnerabilities in a collaborative process, giving lawyers more freedom to provide the kind of service clients expect, and resolve matters promptly and efficiently.

Steve Whiter is a director of Appurity, specialists in business mobility, with extensive experience of secure communications for the legal profession.

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