Client and case confidentiality is a key tenet of any law firm. The privilege of confidentiality fosters trust between attorneys and clients. Duties related to confidentiality, such as the attorney-client-privilege, assure clients are open and honest with their representation so lawyers can provide the best advice.
The challenges of complete confidentiality abound both outside and inside of the office. Attorneys, of course, know not to discuss sensitive or privileged information regarding clients or cases in public places. However, the offices, conference rooms, hallways, and reception desks of the firm are all also hot beds for potential information leaks.
There are three key steps law firms can take to ensure total client confidentiality in every corner of the firm.
1. Ensure all privacy settings in the firm’s software solutions are standard
Cybersecurity extends beyond mitigating the risk of cyberattack to safeguard client and firm information. As Chief Information Officer, you know the rise of technological services designed to optimize efficiency and provide better, more comprehensive service brings with it its own share of confidentiality challenges.
The information that could be available to a savvy hacker isn’t just privileged attorney-client-communications, but confidential client business information, case information, intellectual property, personally identifiable information, and even payment information. By now, firms are increasingly turning to new security standards such as two-step authentication, intrusion prevention tools, and encrypted email, USB drives, and laptops.
But your technological security can’t stop there. When it comes to software solutions such as resource planning and meeting management software, you don’t even need to be a hacker to gain access to information that should be private.
Law firms are increasingly turning to resource management platforms to help optimize billable hours. These solutions make it easy to plan meetings and book related resources in just a few clicks from your phone, tablet, or computer.
Standard meeting management and resource scheduling applications make it easy to see who has booked a room, for what purpose, and for how long with screens that display meeting information outside of each conference room. The solution’s online control panel also displays searchable information regarding attendees and meeting purpose, and shares this information with attendees and front desk staff. This won’t fly at a law firm.
Meeting management and resource scheduling platforms such as AskCody can be completely customized for the needs of the firm. AskCody’s ironclad confidentiality settings extend from the Meeting Room Displays and Meeting Dashboards to the entire Workplace Central cockpit. Robust privacy settings ensure complete anonymity of attendees and privacy of meeting subjects within the system without skimping on any of the benefits and convenience that AskCody’s one-click booking system offers.
Consider also your front desk check-in system. What standards and systems are in place to ensure complete confidentiality of every client that walks through your firm’s doors? If they have to say their name aloud to a waiting room full of other clients, you’re already breaking confidentiality within the first few feet.
A platform like AskCody Visitor Management lets clients securely check in without speaking to the front desk staff at all. They can check in, print documents, and alert their respective attorney that they have arrived with the push of a button right from their smartphone or a kiosk at the front desk. The Visitor Management system is directly integrated with the rest of the AskCody Meeting Management suite within Outlook and Microsoft 365 to ensure a seamless experience.
2. Extend confidentiality training to legal and non-legal staff
Everyone who walks the halls of your firm should be well versed in confidentiality. Attorneys, clerks, paralegals, administrative assistants, and outsourced service providers must all be given some degree of training.
Almost everyone knows not to discuss cases or client circumstances outside the confines of the secure office, but that’s just the beginning. Do all of your legal secretaries know how to address clients when speaking to or about them? Is every contractor aware of any firm standards on the use of first versus last names of clients? What one administrative assistant may think of as small talk could actually be a significant breach in trust for a client who requests complete confidentiality of their relationship with the firm.
Create standards for your firm that include use of names, rules for email (resist the use of Reply All!), and use of software applications such as Adobe and resource management platforms. Document them, and ensure they are available to every internal employee and external contractor who works at the firm.
3. If possible, go paperless
If your firm is still using paper files, there should be a procedure for handling every piece of paper. When possible, don’t remove them from the office. Never leave paper files unattended in a conference room, front desk, your car, or other shared office space. There should also be a disposal process in place with a professional paper shredder to ensure confidentiality even long after a case may end.
Going paperless removes a significant amount of burden from the storing, handling, and disposing of paper files. A robust cloud-based system is more secure and convenient. Documents can be easily and securely shared, accessed, and edited from anywhere from any device.
Keeping it confidential
It is your duty to keep it confidential. Failure to do so can result in serious damage to clients’ reputations, the outcome of cases, and the long-term viability of the firm. Confidentiality must extend from rules of communication and conversation to the standards for planning and booking meetings. With the right tools at hand, you can guarantee your law firm is more secure than Fort Knox without skimping on the technological solutions that make you a more modern, efficient law firm.