Why Law Firms Need IT Policies
Is it okay to store your password on a post it note on your computer monitor in your personal office? Is it acceptable to use your family computer to access your firm’s work product? The answers to these and hundreds of other questions should be documented and considered integral to the operations of all organizations, especially in industries where work product and client data are highly sensitive, and highly valuable.
In order to appreciate why law firms need IT policies, it’s important to first identify their purpose. The rules and procedures that govern how organizations use technology to conduct business, Information technology (IT) policies are crucial to security, efficiency and productivity and shouldn’t be considered optional, static or one-size-fits all.
IT policies cover various aspects of technologies, such as hardware, software, networks, data, security, privacy, and communication. For the legal industry, IT policies are not only a component of operational maturity, but also a matter of ethics. Law firms handle sensitive and confidential information on a daily basis, such as client data, case details, financial records, and intellectual property. For law firms in particular, there is an ethical duty to focus on data security as the trusted custodians of client information.
Law firms need IT policies that define the rules and procedures for using technology within the firm.
IT policies can help law firms:
- Comply with ethical and professional obligations to protect client confidentiality and data privacy
- Comply with relevant laws and regulations, such as data protection, privacy, or electronic discovery, which can vary across jurisdictions and change over time
- Enhance the productivity and efficiency of lawyers and staff by providing clear guidance, standards, and best practices for using technology
- Establish and enforce security protocols, such as passwords, encryption, and backups
- Manage and monitor their IT assets, such as devices, software, and networks
- Respond and recover from security incidents, such as breaches, malware, or phishing
However, Creating and implementing IT policies is not an easy task. Law firms face many challenges in this process, including:
- Keeping up with the rapid pace of technological change and innovation, which requires constant monitoring, evaluation, and adaptation of IT policies
- Balancing the trade-offs between security and convenience, which requires finding the optimal level of protection and access for different types of data and users
- Aligning the IT policies with the business goals and culture of the law firm, which requires engaging and educating the stakeholders and ensuring their buy-in and support
- Measuring and demonstrating the value and impact of IT policies, which requires defining and tracking the key performance indicators and outcomes
The COVID-19 pandemic further increased the urgency and complexity of IT policies for law firms, by accelerating the digital transformation of the legal industry, creating new opportunities and challenges.
Some of the specific IT policies that law firms should consider in the post-COVID world are:
- Remote Access policy: This policy provides the framework for secure remote access by defining standards for accessing corporate information technology resources from outside the network. This includes access for any reason from the employee’s home, remote working locations, or while traveling.
- Cloud Computing Security policy: This policy outlines the use of cloud services for storing, processing, and accessing data and applications, such as the selection, evaluation, and contract of cloud providers, the security and privacy controls, and the backup and recovery plans.
- Mobile Device policy: This policy specifies company standards for the use and security of mobile devices. This is necessary to protect the integrity and confidentiality of the firm’s data and the security of the firm’s network. A more mobile workforce is a more flexible and productive workforce and business use of mobile devices is growing. However, as these devices become vital tools to the workforce, more and more sensitive data is stored on them, and thus the risk associated with their use is growing.
IT policies are not one-size-fits-all.
Each law firm should tailor its IT policies to suit its specific needs, goals, and risks. A good way to start is to conduct a security assessment to identify the firm’s current IT strengths and weaknesses, and then develop and implement IT policies accordingly.
IT policies should not be static.
They should be reviewed and updated regularly to keep up with the changing technology landscape and legal environment. A good way to do this is to solicit feedback from staff, clients, and vendors, and to consult with experts, such as IT professionals, cybersecurity consultants, or legal tech specialists.
IT policies should not be optional.
They are a necessity for any law firm that wants to protect its data, clients, and reputation. By adopting and following IT policies, law firms can demonstrate their professionalism, competence, and trustworthiness to gain a competitive edge in the legal market.
Finally, the increasing prevalence of artificial intelligence has increased both the need for and complexity of implementing IT policies. At the request of our clients for guidance related to governing artificial intelligence, Kraft Kennedy is adding an Artificial Intelligence position to its Policies-as-a-Service offering.
There are 25+ policies that should be kept current for a strong security posture, explore the list here.
To review your policy needs with Kraft Kennedy experts, please reach out.