Mike McLean April 25, 2024 5 min read

How to Develop a Cybersecurity Policy for Law Firms

A person walks down the street in a button up shirt and tie, holding a cellphone, probably talking about creating a cybersecurity policy for law firms. We hope.

If you’re a managing partner or an operations manager at a law firm, there’s so much on your to-do list. So, while you’re at it, can you develop a cybersecurity policy for law firms?

Between HR responsibilities, business owner duties, the actual functions of being an attorney, you’re also in charge of keeping your firm’s digital assets safe. Great!

Client data and private legal information act as inviting lures for cybercriminals. And it’s a part of your job to protect your firm against these threats

How do you get started? Developing a cybersecurity policy is a great first step. These kinds of policies outline a firm’s general objectives and procedures for digital information security. They dictate how your law firm manages, protects, and distributes information, and outline what to do in the event of a digital breach. 

Let’s take a look at the importance of having a cybersecurity policy for law firms, the risks of not having a one in place, and how to create one for your firm. 

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What Does a Cybersecurity Policy for Law Firms Do?

A cybersecurity policy is more than a PDF that’s opened once or twice throughout a new employee’s onboarding. Your law firm’s cybersecurity policy will become a roadmap that clearly outlines best practices for digital work and data storage. And it can empower your firm’s employees to do right by their clients’ personal information.

A cybersecurity policy will protect the confidentiality and integrity of your firm’s data, arm employees with training and tools to identify and avoid threats, minimize the risk of security breaches, and help with regulatory compliance.

What if My Firm Doesn’t Have a Cybersecurity Policy?

Security precautions matter for all kinds of practical reasons, yet it’s been reported that roughly four in ten legal firms experience a data breach. Even with this very real threat knocking at a law firm’s virtual door, many still do not understand law firm security requirements or cybersecurity policy requirements. 

Without the guarantee that client privacy will be protected, legal firms open themselves up to malpractice negligence lawsuits, are subject to government fines and penalties, and could ultimately lose their credibility and clientele along with it. 

How Do I Make a Cybersecurity Policy for My Law Firm?

You’re a lawyer, not an IT professional. Or maybe you work in IT, but are unsure of what security measures are needed for a law firm. The task may seem daunting, but it doesn’t have to be. Follow these five steps and you’ll be on your way to creating, implementing, and following a cybersecurity policy of your own. 

1. Assess current security measures and identify vulnerabilities

You have to start somewhere, so why not get a better idea of the current state of your law firm’s security measures before drafting anything official? You can do your own evaluation, but it might be better to invest in a third-party security assessment tool

A third-party team may be able to use cybersecurity scanning technology that you may not have access to — plus, they may catch vulnerabilities more readily, having come in fresh and unbiased. Not only do some insurance carriers require it, but some clients will consider it a plus knowing your firm has gone the extra mile. 

2. Develop a written policy document

Get it on the record. This may sound like a legal tip you’d give to anyone entering a business situation and in this case, you should take your own advice. You’ll want the document to cover digital security topics including data protection, access controls, incident response, employee training, and third-party vendor management. It should outline how your firm stores, protects, and disseminates information. And it should relay expectations and responsibilities in regard to digital security measures for all law firm staff. 

The American Bar Association (ABA) agrees that it is important to outline cybersecurity policies clearly so that employees are knowledgeable about security practices that apply to remote access, internet usage, social media, and email. Ensure that your policy is easy to follow and seek help creating it from a third party if need be. Your policy should be written in a way that shows how these measures impact an employee’s daily routine, making it a part of everyday work rather than an afterthought. 

3. Implement technical controls

Technical controls can act like a digital lock and key for your firm’s sensitive information. Invest time and necessary resources to implement security measures like encryption, multifactor authentication, firewalls, and secure backups. Again, if this is not something you feel equipped to execute, seek help from a verified third party and obtain training for ongoing maintenance checks. 

4. Train employees on cybersecurity best practices and policies

The ABA recommends that cybersecurity awareness training be on every firm’s calendar at least once a year, and more frequently than that if possible. Not only is it important to equip your team with the right tools, but cyber insurance carriers may also consider your firm to be at less risk if you do so. In turn, this could help you save on your cyber insurance policy. Once employees have been trained, make the policy readily accessible so that all staff can easily reference the information when they need it. 

5. Regularly review and update the policy to address new threats

Cybersecurity work is never a closed case. See what we did there? 

Include a maintenance timeline and protocol within your written documents. Set quarterly meetings for employees to at least review documents and refresh their brains on proper protocols. 

Keep in mind that even if you follow all of the steps and take every measure possible, a breach could still occur. In the event of a breach, your response can matter just as much as avoiding the initial threat. A crisis management plan can help your firm stay cool in an extremely stressful situation, as knowing what to do at times of a cyber crisis can make all of the difference. 

As well, the aftermath and financial loss of a cyberattack can be lessened with a robust cyber insurance policy. Check out what Embroker has to offer law firms to protect their digital assets, and every other risk that comes with practicing law.

Cyber threats abound, but, luckily, so are the ways to protect your law firm’s sensitive data. Equip yourself and your team with the know-how, necessary tools, and safeguards and you’ll be ready in the event that an unfortunate breach does take place. 

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