Under lock and key: securing communication processes in law firms

By Karolina Wintermann on 10. May 2019

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A daily stream of sensitive documents flows through every law firm and legal department. Matter-related documents, transaction and deal bibles, due diligence reports, board and partner meeting packs and even emails all contain valuable or sensitive information – presenting two significant challenges for legal professionals:

  • Firstly, creating, versioning and managing these documents demands a number of business workflows that are expensive and immensely time-consuming.
  • Secondly, the need to share these documents regularly with external parties including authorities, regulators and clients which exposes firms to risk of data leakage.

So how can law firms minimise the risks associated with document collaboration, increase the efficiency of business workflows and drive down costs?

The risks 

Clearly, sensitive data can’t just be sent out by insecure email. And even traditional email encryption has its downsides. Sharing keys for common encryption procedures like OpenPGP and s/MIME is complicated, so both parties need a high level of technical competence to deal with it. In addition, all that’s encrypted is the actual transmission and the attachments. There’s no way of controlling what happens to the documents once they’ve been received, so they can easily be copied or forwarded to third parties. The email messages themselves are also unprotected as they’re stored in plain text on the servers, so they can be intercepted and manipulated by attackers during transmission.

virtual data room for legal

A virtual data room protects sensitive information both internally and externally and helps legal firms reduce risk and comply with industry regulations. Lawyers are able to grant specific permissions to certain people, enabling them to access and work on documents. These access rights can be tailored to each person’s role and to a specific document or folder. They can also set up a data room or data room centre per client, which implements Chinese walls and ensures strict separation between each case. Users are only allowed to see the documents for which they have permissions. Even the IT administrator has no access to the content.

Other security functions include the Secure Document Viewer, which prevents any traces being left on the recipients’ computer once they’ve opened a document from the data room.  For data protection reasons, it’s an advantage if the data room server is located in Germany, or an EU country with similarly strict legislation, and prevents the data from leaving the country.

What’s more, the data room automates time-consuming and costly processes such as the creation and sharing of board packs and deal or transaction bibles, due diligence workflows and M&A activities like Q&A. 

Additional benefits

  • Confidentiality: communications are always protected, increasing the level of trust 
  • Security: the data is always reliably encrypted in storage and for every type of procedure
  • Integrity: the system guarantees that data can’t be modified
  • Traceability: all activities within the data room are logged, preventing misuse
  • Usability and availability: every data room is easy to use with a simple web browser. The documents are available immediately and accessible via mobile devices
  • Efficiency: data rooms support multiple workflows for legal firms and versioning of documents enables users to keep track of edits.

These comprehensive protection mechanisms ensure data integrity as well as smoother collaboration, both within the law firm and with external parties. 

Compliance, Secure Collaboration, Security, Data room

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