Protecting client confidentiality is paramount for law firms, as they are entrusted with highly sensitive information. Unfortunately, law firms are frequent targets of cybercrime, with 27% of firms experiencing security breaches, according to the 2022 ABA Cybersecurity Tech Report. your law firm must take steps to prevent becoming a part of this statistic. So, how can you minimize the risk of data breaches and ensure the security of your clients’ data? Staying current with the latest legal technology is essential, but with the constant evolution of technology, it’s not easy to know where to begin.

Discover the essentials of law firm data security in 2023 as we provide an overview of best practices for safeguarding your firm’s data. We will also summarize your ethical and regulatory obligations concerning technology, examine the benefits and potential risks of cloud-based legal software, and suggest some resources to enhance the data security of your law firm.

Basic Law Firm Data Security

To begin, let’s cover the fundamentals. Then, we have compiled the necessary information you should know regarding law firm data security in 2023.

What are the potential data security risks faced by law firms?

Failing to maintain data security can have severe consequences for your law firm and your clients. Law firms are highly attractive to cybercriminals due to their valuable information, such as trade secrets, intellectual property, merger and acquisition details, personally identifiable information (PII), and confidential attorney-client-privileged data. Despite the risks, law firms must safeguard their clients’ information. In case of security breaches, the consequences can range from minor embarrassments to serious legal issues, including compromised communications, inability to access firm information due to ransomware, public leaks of personal or business data, loss of public and client trust, malpractice allegations, and lawsuits.

What are your ethical and regulatory obligations?

As a legal professional, it is your ethical and professional duty to safeguard client data and disclose any breach that may occur. Rule 1.6: Confidentiality of Information by the American Bar Association (ABA) requires lawyers to make reasonable efforts to prevent unauthorized access or disclosure of client information. The ABA has also issued Ethics Opinions for addressing cybersecurity concerns, such as Securing Communication of Protected Client Information and Lawyers’ Obligations After an Electronic Data Breach or Cyberattack. To comply with these obligations, you may need to implement a cybersecurity plan, secure your mobile devices, enhance email communication practices, and thoroughly vet legal tech providers. It’s essential to consider these ethical responsibilities and best practices when integrating legal technology into your firm’s operations. Legal technology can assist in meeting regulatory obligations by streamlining processes, improving security infrastructure, and providing encryption. In addition, data security laws, such as HIPAA, CCPA, SHIELD, and state-specific breach notification laws, may vary by location, and it is your responsibility to comprehend your legal obligations in case of a breach.

HIPAA is a federal law that mandates health care providers and “business associates” to safeguard PHI from unauthorized disclosure. Since law firms are regarded as business associates, they must comply with HIPAA when dealing with PHI on behalf of their clients.

The California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) was introduced by the state of California in 2020, aiming to provide similar protections to the GDPR and mandating increased safeguarding of personal information belonging to California residents.

The state of New York has enacted the Stop Hacks and Improve Electronic Data Security Act (SHIELD) which mandates the implementation of “reasonable” security measures for businesses that possess the personal data of New York residents. In addition, the SHIELD Act has strengthened the existing data breach notification requirement of New York, which was already one of the strictest in the United States.

Actions to Take if Your Law Firm is Hacked

No one wants to believe that their law firm could fall victim to hacking, but unfortunately, law firms are prime targets due to the valuable documents they hold. Hackers may intend to steal clients’ data to sell it to third parties or even have the information hostage until a ransom is paid.

To prepare for such situations, your firm must have an incident response plan (IRP), even though it is hopefully never needed. A good starting point for creating an IRP checklist includes:

  • Containing the damage and initiating any recovery protocols.
  • Connecting with a data breach expert.
  • Notifying your cybersecurity insurance provider.
  • Reporting the incident to law enforcement.
  • Ensuring that all third parties are notified.
  • Making compliance a top priority.

It is important to regularly review and update your IRP plan to prevent a bad situation from getting worse.

Here are 11 recommended best practices for safeguarding your law firm’s data

Rather than relying on a single approach to secure your law firm’s data, it is recommended to implement a defense-in-depth strategy that utilizes multiple layers of protection and incorporates the latest legal technology. Regardless of the system you use, it is important to consider these best practices to enhance your firm’s overall security.


1. Establish and put into effect a data security policy for your firm.

It may come as a surprise, but many security problems arise from human error rather than technology malfunctions. To address this issue, it is crucial to create a comprehensive and user-friendly data security plan and distribute it to all members of your firm. Additionally, employees should be trained on best practices and policies, such as utilizing two-factor authentication for logins, exclusively utilizing firm-approved applications, and implementing a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policy for individuals using their personal devices. Enforcement of these procedures is also crucial to maintaining security.

2.Continuously train staff on mitigating data risk.

Refrain from assuming all team members are well-versed in identifying and avoiding phishing emails. Instead, encourage open communication and provide ongoing training to promote best practices and minimize accidental user errors, all while prioritizing the security of your law firm’s data. It is recommended to make training mandatory for all new hires and to schedule periodic training sessions (usually annually). Additionally, resources such as data privacy Continuing Legal Education (CLE) courses can assist your firm in comprehending risks and implementing effective solutions to mitigate them.

3. Use a password manager to create strong passwords.

It is imperative to prioritize password security. For example, are you using an easily guessable password like your child’s birthday or “123456”? Do you utilize the same password for all of your logins? If so, you may be a prime target for cybercriminals. Here are some recommendations to improve your password security:

  • Opt for a more complex and lengthier password to enhance security.
  • Consider utilizing a password management tool to maintain secure passwords and simplify password management (no more memorization or written passwords- please avoid this).
  • Ensure that strong password policies are enforced to maintain security by requiring robust passwords.

4. Encrypt sensitive data

Recognizing the significance of encryption is crucial, as it is a relatively straightforward yet incredibly effective method to enhance data security. Encryption works by converting your data (whether it is saved in an email, on a local hard drive, within an internet browser, or a cloud application) into a secret code that necessitates a password or key to access it. Consider using applications that can take care of encryption for you, such as implementing industry best practices like HTTPS and TLS to apply in-transit and at-rest encryption and guarantee secure storage and transmission of your firm’s data.

5. Ensure the security of your communications.

Hackers can intercept your data primarily through your communication channels. To ensure the security of your firm’s data, it is important to assess any vulnerabilities in these channels and take measures to mitigate them. For instance, encrypting your firm’s emails can be one effective step. Additionally, exploring communication applications like Signal, which provides end-to-end encryption for various messaging methods, can be beneficial. Incorporating these practices as part of your firm’s data security plan is advisable.

6. Take into account access control.

Every staff member can have access to some information. However, when granting permission to view specific matters, it is important to be intentional and follow the principles of Least Privilege and Need to Know.

7. Perform cybersecurity reviews regularly.

If you don’t allocate time to review your law firm’s data security, it’s easy to overlook its weaknesses. To identify and address risks, it is advisable to conduct regular audits (which can be integrated into your firm’s data security policy). For example, you can ensure that former employees no longer have access to legal files or verify the effective operation of controls such as anti-virus software and firewalls. To enhance your security further, consider obtaining data privacy certifications. For instance, programs like ISO 27001 certification for law firms ensure the adequacy of your protocols and appeal to prospective and current clients.

8. Thoroughly evaluate vendors before engaging with them

Although lawyers bear ethical responsibility for data security, legal technology can facilitate or hinder this task. Therefore, to ensure that your data is in safe hands, it is essential to thoroughly evaluate potential vendors before engaging with them.

9. Prepare for the worst-case scenario.

While you strive to avoid and proactively mitigate the risks of data breaches, it is crucial to be prepared for the possibility of their occurrence – before they happen. Develop a plan that outlines the immediate steps to be taken in the event of a data breach, such as communicating the incident, resetting passwords, and reporting to impacted individuals or regulatory authorities. The plan should also address your firm’s response to a malpractice claim and comply with the ethical obligations outlined by the ABA. Additionally, it is advisable to test the plan to ensure its effectiveness in a real-life scenario. Similarly, it is important to prepare for a disaster to ensure that your law firm can operate efficiently. A disaster recovery/business continuity plan should include identifying critical systems and equipment, determining appropriate tools/procedures (e.g., backups, remote sites, cloud providers), and developing communication plans while adhering to ethical obligations prescribed by the ABA. Testing the plan is also recommended to determine its efficacy.

10. Enhance your law firm's mobile device security

As legal work is increasingly conducted remotely, the importance of mobile data security for law firms is growing. Secure mobile apps, such as case management apps for lawyers, can simplify the process. However, your smartphone, laptop, and other mobile devices may require additional security measures. Enhance the security of these devices by taking steps such as

Enable encryption

Having a lock-screen password on your laptops and mobile devices is a necessary initial security measure, but more is needed to protect your data from unauthorized access if your password is compromised. In addition, enable encryption on your mobile devices to scramble sensitive data to provide additional protection.

Set up two-factor authentication.

Although a strong password is crucial, it can still be compromised. To enhance security, consider implementing two-factor authentication, which involves using both a password (the first factor) and a temporary code sent to another device (the second factor). This makes it significantly more challenging for unauthorized individuals to access your device. Typically, two-factor authentication requires users to verify their identity through their mobile devices.

Separate your professional and private accounts.

To avoid the risk of combining personal and confidential professional communications, it is recommended to use dedicated apps for work purposes. This can help ensure that these two types of communication remain separate.

Backup firm data to secure remote locations

Regularly backing up your firm’s data to a secure and encrypted location is a wise step, whether you lose your device or become a victim of a ransomware attack. Cloud-based software offers the advantage of automated backups, relieving you of the responsibility (more on this later), and supports your incident response and business continuity plans.

Develop a plan to deal with lost or stolen mobile devices.

It’s crucial to have an action plan in case your mobile device gets lost or stolen. This should include ways to locate the device (using tools like Find My iPhone or Google’s Find My Phone) and steps to suspend or disable the device remotely. It’s also essential to have full disk encryption on your laptop to ensure your data remains safe in case it is lost or stolen. Plan so that you are prepared for any such situation.

11. Educate your clients

Clients need to know their actions are secure. Yet, law firms are the ones bearing the risk of a client exposing details, like banking information, to scam artists. To prevent this risk from blowing up into trust account errors and payment disputes, lawyers need to train their clients from their initial conversation on what methods of communication are most secure and how to use them. A client should, as part of retention, learn the following:

  • Whom to expect will be contacting them
  • What methods of communication will be used between the lawyer and the client
  • What steps clients are expected to take to help preserve the confidentiality of data
  • How to report anything that deviates from this discussed training.

This means that a law firm should show their client how their client portal functions and walk them through logging in and creating a password before the end of their first meeting. Set yourself and your clients up for secure communications from the start.


Prioritizing data security for your law firm is crucial. Take a proactive approach and start analyzing and improving your data security measures as soon as possible to avoid the negative consequences of cyber attacks or data breaches. Protecting your clients and your law firm’s data is a good practice and ethically and professionally critical for your role as a lawyer. Understanding your responsibilities and following the best practices can help reduce the risk of data breaches. Additionally, incorporating the latest legal technology can enhance your security while improving your law firm’s overall efficiency.

If you need assistance with proactively managing your risks related to IT and Cybersecurity, please feel free to contact us at 770-648-3399 or drop us an email at We can be your reliable partner in this journey.