Lawyers and Cybersecurity in 2019:
Trends and Tips

In 2019, cybersecurity is of paramount importance. This is because lawyers have an ethical obligation to ensure client confidentiality, whether that information is stored in paper files or online. As more lawyers than ever move to cloud computing, maintaining secure online files is a necessity for law firms, both big and small.

No doubt your law firm has security measures in place to protect your firm’s digital data. But are the steps your firm is taking sufficient? How does your firm compare to other firms of equal size? If you’re unsure, never fear. You’ll find the answers in the ABA’s latest Legal Technology Survey Report, which provides all sorts of data on how lawyers and law firms are using technology in 2019. And, of course, cybersecurity is included in its results.

So without further ado, let’s take a look at the data from this year’s report on cybersecurity trends and how lawyers are protecting their firm’s data.

Securing law firm hardware

Oftentimes for lawyers, the hardware that they carry with them can be the weakest link. That’s why it’s so important to password protect all of your devices, whether it’s your laptop, smartphone, or tablet. The good news is that in 2019, most lawyers understand this.

For starters, lawyers are using passwords to protect their laptops. According to the Report, more than 90% of lawyers surveyed reported that they password-protected their laptops. The large firm lawyers led the way with 100% of respondents from firms of 100 or more attorneys doing so. Next were of solo firms at 99%, followed by 98% of lawyers from firms with 2-9 attorneys, and 94% of lawyers from firms with 10-49 attorneys.

Even more lawyers report using password protection for their smartphones, with 92% of lawyers doing so. The lawyers most likely to password-protect their smartphones were lawyers from firms of 10-49 (97%). Next were 95% of lawyers from firms of 2-9, 95% of lawyers from firms with 100 or more attorneys, and 87% of solos.

The bottom line: if you’re not already password-protecting your devices, the time is now. Make sure to start today, since it’s your first line of defense when it comes to protecting your firm’s confidential client data.

The move from premise-based software to secure computing in the cloud

Did you know that one of the primary reasons lawyers are moving from premise-based software to using law practice management software in the cloud to run their law firms is security? In fact, according to the Report, 31% of lawyers surveyed reported that primary reason that their firms made the move from premise-based software to cloud-based software in 2018 was because it provided better security than they were able to provide in-office.

So it’s no surprise then that more lawyers than ever are planning to make the move to the cloud in 2019. According to the Report, in 2019, a good number of law firms are planning to replace premise-based legal software with a cloud-based alternative. 10% of lawyers overall indicated that was the case (notably 43% weren’t sure what their firm’s plans were). Of the firms that planned to make this move, small law firms with 2-9 lawyers led the way at 15%. Next up were law firms with 10-49 lawyers at 14%, followed by firms with 50-99 lawyers at 13%, then firms with 100-499 lawyers at 12%, and coming in last was solos at 6%.

And, notably, 55% of lawyers surveyed have already used used cloud-computing software for law-related tasks over the past year, up from 38% in 2016. The fact that 75% of lawyers surveyed reported that they’d downloaded the Dropbox app in the past year is a further indication that even more lawyers are using cloud computing, but are simply unaware that they’re doing so. Either way, more lawyers than ever are using cloud computing tools, and security concerns are an important impetus behind this rapidly occurring transition to the cloud.

Cybersecurity Tips

Of course,  password protecting their devices and moving to the cloud are just some of the steps lawyers are taking to secure their firm’s data. Another popular security measure that is on the rise in 2019 is using a password manager such as Lastpass to store passwords, with 24% of lawyers doing so. Lawyers from firms with 100-499 lawyers were the most likely to use password managers at 30%, followed by solos at 27%. Next were lawyers from firms of 500+ attorneys at 26%, and lawyers from small firms (2-9 attorneys) at 23%.

So if you’re not already using a password manager, now’s the time to start. In addition, there are many other simple security measures that you can start implementing today that you might not even be aware of, such as using two-factor authentication. To learn about two-factor authentication, along with lots of other cybersecurity tips, including advice on why password managers are so important, check out this blog post.

And for even more tips on how to ethically and securely use technology in your law firm, watch the recap of this webinar, where Jim Calloway shares his wisdom on protecting client communications, suggests tools to use for data encryption, and much more!

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