By Allie Philpin
Anyone that has ever had any dealings with the legal profession, on either side, is no doubt aware that the industry is bound by paper! But technology is starting to revolutionise the paper mountain, with the help of cloud computing and document management systems. But before law firms jump in and implement the latest, all-singing, all-dancing, electronic document management solution or, for that matter, an off-the-shelf tool, it is important that the firm’s business processes and procedures are fully understood first.
At Keystone Law, their intranet is key to their business and for them, there are three forms of documents:
1. Client documents that are editable, accessed by permission only by lawyers working on the case, and filed under matter or client.
2. Templates, which are freely-available and read only.
3. Internal documents, which are also editable and accessed by permission only, but by management teams.
Firms are now able to manage their documents remotely, from any location, via a range of devices; and with BYOD becoming popular amongst lawyers, this includes smartphones and tablets. Cloud computing has been a leading technology innovation that has driven the improvement in legal document management, and has also helped increase levels of data security. In a recent report, Silver Linings: cloud computing, law firms and risk, by the Solicitors Regulation Authority, they say that: “The biggest data risk comes from lost or stolen laptops and USB drives. Cloud systems remove the need for USB drives and means that data need not be kept on individual laptops.” In addition to this, moving data to the cloud where it can be stored and managed securely, with access provided to users via authentication and password methods via computers that have been configured correctly, has given an added level to security measures.
It has also become easier to keep on top of compliance and regulatory obligations, which include:
• The SRA Code of Conduct, Outcome 4.1 (client confidentiality).
• The SRA Code of Conduct, Outcome 7.3 (managing risks to ensure compliance).
• The SRA Code of Conduct, Outcome 7.10 (providing access to data for SRA inspection).
• Data Protection Act 1998, Principle 8 (non-transference of personal data outside the EEA).
With the implementation of the PATRIOT Act in the US, the issue of data security and regulation compliance has been highlighted for many; another area that is discussed in the SRA’s Silver Linings report basically due to:
1. Personal data protection being weak in the US, together with surveillance that is intrusive and data seizure.
2. The high level of technology companies in the country, including providers of cloud solutions.
It is important for law firms that are storing their data in clouds that are not based in the US to ensure that the level of privacy protection and security are of a high enough standard to meet the Safe Harbour terms. The SRA says: “Given the possibility of data seizure from the provider, the recommendation to encrypt sensitive information at the user’s end is of particular importance.”
Document management, whether in the legal or any other industry, is more than just storing, managing, accessing and archiving documents; it is a valuable, or should we say invaluable, tool that can enhance your business significantly – make sure it works for you.