Think physical legal files are secure? Think again.

English: Smoke cloud behind Clydebank Job Cent...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

For many lawyers, physical files are familiar and comfortable. That’s because lawyers  are used to physical files. After all, that’s what we’ve always used. So some would suggest: if it ain’t broke, why fix it?

Based on that reasoning, many lawyers continue to insist on using physical files to the exclusion of all other options. In addition to familiarly, one of the primary reasons asserted in support of physical files is security. So it’s no surprise then that when it comes to storing legal files in the cloud, according the American Bar Association’s 2013 Legal Technology Survey results, 58% of lawyers queried cited security as the top reason that prevented them from using cloud computing in their law practices.

The problem is that physical files are not necessarily more secure and the belief that they are is illusory, at best. In fact, the failure to properly back up a law firm’s files offsite in digital format can lead to disastrous results (and as I’ll discuss next week, digital back up alone is insufficient–offsite backup is key).

A Pennsylvania law firm recently learned this lesson the hard way when the building in which their law offices were located went up in flames. As reported in an article about the fire, the building and everything inside of it was destroyed:

(T)hey felt fortunate there was no loss of life and only physical damage to cope with. However, at least one of the buildings appears likely to be a total loss, following a roof collapse. Inside were…documents and legal work that (would) have to be re-created…

In other words, the firm apparently had no offsite backup for their client’s files and each and every file would need to be re-created from scratch. Imagine all the time, money, and manpower required to do that!

Another problem with physical files is the cost required to store law firm files offsite, whether at the close of a case or for other reasons. Physical storage fees can add up quickly and for that reason, some lawyers are tempted to cut corners. However, doing so can lead to unfortunate results as occurred in a recent case discussed in this ABA Journal blog post, wherein a lawyer asked his neighbor to:

store 300 boxes of legal files in his garage…because the lawyer was selling his house and moving…Nine months later, the neighbor is still waiting for the lawyer to retrieve the files.

Ethical issues aside (of which there are many!), this particular situation would never have arisen if the lawyer in question had transitioned to a paperless office with his files stored offsite in the cloud. In that case, there would have been far fewer physical files, since most of the law firm’s data would have been safely stored away in a secure cloud environment. Transporting large amounts of paper files would have been a non-issue and the lawyer would  have avoided the entire predicament altogether.

Of course, according to the ABA’s 2013 Legal Technology Survey, one of the reasons that many lawyers (43%) cite for not yet transitioning their firms to a paperless and cloud-based storage system is lack of familiarity with the technologies. If you’re one of those lawyers, isn’t it about time to learn more about offsite digital backup?

Instead of trying to pick up the pieces after a disastrous loss, why not take preventative measures and protect your confidential client data? Begin by learning all you can about moving your practice to a paperless office with offsite cloud backup.

And lucky for you, our upcoming webinar, “Creating a Paperless Law Office,” with well known attorney and author, Ernest Svenson (aka “Ernie the Attorney“), is a great place to start!

Register TODAY for our free 60 minute webinar which will be held on Thursday, Feb. 27, 2014 at 11 AM PST and 2 PM EST to learn:

  • Benefits & challenges in shedding paper in your firm
  • The roadmap & best practices for going paperless
  • Storing & managing digital documents
  • Myth-busting: “Paperless” is not paper free
  • And more!


–Nicole Black

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