Cybersecurity Guidance for Law Firms Is Nothing to Argue About


Lawyers are the gatekeepers of client information including corporate clients put great trust in—and spend countless dollars on—both their inside and outside counsel to protect confidential communications and trade secrets. 

Corporate intellectual property and confidential communications aren’t just valuable to organizations but also to hackers. It is one of the reasons why companies tell their corporate counsel that cybersecurity “chief concerns” when sharing sensitive data with their attorneys, according recent data security guidance from the Association of Corporate Counsel (ACC). The aim of the guidance is to help in-house counsel use data security controls when interacting with outside counsel and other third-party vendors, the report said. 

The guidelines for “outside counsel who have access to sensitive company data” encompass topics such as “information retention/return/destruction, data handling and encryption, data breach reporting, physical security, employee background screening, and cyber liability insurance,” the ACC said in a statement. For example, the guidance calls for the use of the encryption solutions for data at-rest, data transmitted over non-secure channels and mobile devices certified against the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s (NIST) Federal Information Processing Standard (FIPS) 140-2. 

The guidelines will put in-house counsel and outside counsel in the position to take “the lead on sharing established best practices to promote data security,” Amar D. Sarway, vice president and chief legal strategist at ACC said in a statement. 

And some law firms could use the help. Consumer class action firm Edelson PC sued Chicago-based Johnson and Bell Ltd. in 2016 over alleged lax data security. Edelson asserted the law firm used outdated safeguard systems, failed to properly patch vulnerabilities in its systems and didn’t encrypt firm e-mail. The suit hit a roadblock Feb. 22 when a federal district court judge ruled that claims had to be heard individually in arbitration, not as a class.

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