While your office may never become a fully remote office, remote work for law firms can offer great benefits—as long as you are aware of and can mitigate the risks.

While workplaces were forced to shift quickly from in-office to at-home work in the wake of COVID-19, many companies have found it hard to ignore the key advantages of remote working. The cultural change that comes with long-term remote working has made it clear that remote work in a post-pandemic world will continue to happen. 

While your office may never become a fully remote office, remote work for law firms can offer great benefits—as long as you are aware of and can mitigate the risks.

Secure Your Confidential Files

First thing’s first, don’t use consumer grade file sharing whether your staff is working remotely or not. Consumer-grade file sharing tools and email attachments put your law practice at risk. Pretending that a statement of confidentiality will protect you is also misguided. 

To prevent breaches, keep up with increasing storage needs, and generally maintain control of your company, it’s important to move away from using consumer-grade servers as your filing platforms. Unfortunately, data breaches and leaks can happen to any company, but a professional-grade file sharing platform greatly decreases the risks over consumer-grade applications.

The data stored on these drives isn’t properly protected the way it would be in a secure network that offers encryption, strategic sharing permissions, and complete records of file access. Professional-grade platforms are also more efficient at safeguarding and backing up data to prevent loss. Great options like links with expiration dates and temporary passwords also exist to protect information shared with external contacts. 

Shadow IT

With the increase in remote work, Shadow IT will likely increase if there are no governance structures to go through. While your employees may not recognize the importance of IT, others do. This trend—where employees take IT into their own hands by using devices, apps, and software for business without IT’s approval—is called Shadow IT and the loosening of IT’s control over security threatens to topple businesses everywhere. This is especially true in the age of digital workspaces.

By including or allowing IT leaders to take control of discussions about data, their expertise will likely lead them to suggest an in-house or private cloud solution over a consumer-grade filing system (not to mention a crackdown on employee use of personal devices).

You may be thinking, “well duh.” But can you be sure that everyone at your law firm is using the appropriate channels to store and share confidential files?

BYOD

BYOD or “bring your own device” policies come with a lot of benefits like reduced hardware costs and increased ability for remote work. But there are a few security considerations you need to keep in mind if you’re using remote work BYOD

Issues usually stem from employees using unauthorized personal devices (or worse, public devices like hotel computers) to access work files. What’s the harm? They can log in with their Google credentials from anywhere and get more done right? 

Wrong. Every time an employee accesses your company’s private data on an unauthorized device, they risk theft, breaches, and compliance violations.

One thing to remember if you are using a BYOD policy is also to provide a good file sharing solution for your team because if you don’t, I can almost guarantee they will find one on their own.

BYOD is a global phenomenon that doesn’t have to work against your company and the security of your files. Organizations that put the right policies and tools in place can take advantage of BYOD benefits while still protecting company files and data.

File Lifecycle Management for compliance

File sharing in a remote environment needs to be structured and secure, especially when it comes to IT compliance and file lifecycle management. Managing the file lifecycle usually includes these basic steps:

  1. Creation
  2. Storage
  3. Use
  4. Archive
  5. Destruction: 

If there is not a process in place for deletion or destruction, files could be overlooked or misplaced, opening a your law firm up to a data breach and fines.

When your law firm is working remotely (or even if you’re not), automating the cycle can make departments more efficient, requiring less intensive time managing files. The automation process can help to minimize human error. Additionally, the tracking of file activity will adhere to industry regulations and compliance and give internal users an accurate audit log of activity. Overall, identifying file management needs and creating a file lifecycle is beneficial to businesses.

Automating the file lifecycle is not always the most simple process, but it can prove very valuable for companies. Execute your information governance strategy without manual interaction. Setup workflows to keep files for three years and then auto-delete them. Freeing up storage space for the most important information or documents can take the strain off of resources and save companies money by not using the best storage for less essential files.

Mitigate Risk with SmartFile

Managing documents with clients is hard. Email chains become unwieldy, sensitive data is sent via email attachments and excessive tweaks lead to file version confusion. SmartFile’s here to help by providing secure document management and granular file and user permissions.

SmartFile also supports you by letting you send confidential documents to clients through various access methods (branded web portal, FTP, API and Outlook plugin). This ensures your client will send you files safely through SmartFile every time, regardless of their technical knowledge.

SmartFile Features for Law Firms

  • Branded Upload Form for Clients
  • Various Access Methods
  • File Lifecycle Management
  • Secure Email Attachment Alternative
  • Granular User Roles and Permissions
  • Multiple Deployment Options (On-Premise & Cloud)

Want to send files to your client through email? It’s as simple as copy + paste. Just copy the secure shared link into a new email and send it. You control access by setting link expiration dates, download limits and even passwords.

You need to allow clients to upload files securely, too. Instead of letting them send an insecure email attachment, let them use that same link you provided to your branded web portal to easily drag and drop files for encrypted file transfer to your SmartFile account.

Granular Permissions with SmartFile

Not everyone needs access to every file, and consumer-grade platforms aren’t very strong at restricting access. By locking permissions and providing folders for specific employees or teams to control, a secure cloud or in-house approach will decrease unnecessary risks not only from data breaches but from accidental leaks or distribution of old information.

SmartFile is a professional-grade file transfer protocol (FTP) product that makes it easy to manage and share large file structures inside and outside of your business with a perfect blend of simplicity for users and control for IT. When you invest in a SmartFile system, your law firm benefits from data protection, secure file transfers, and branded web portals all featuring an easy user experience.

SmartFile’s cloud solutions combine the data access your business’s stakeholders need, the management desired by IT, and the compliance required for regulated industries. Our file sharing platform’s ability to give IT control while letting everyone else work the way they want in a low-risk system makes it more than just a file-sharing service – it’s a better way to work.

On-Prem

Our physical, on-premise solutions provide a secure gateway to your cloud and take your business’s data storage and sharing to the next level with our FileHub system. This system is a virtual file management server hosted behind your firewall and features a central port allowing you to manage information hosted natively or on your network storage, FTP servers, Windows servers, and application storage.

Your business’s users can still access files through their favorite tools, like web browsers, Outlook, mounted drives, FTP clients, and mobile devices, and all of the enterprise file sharing and management behavior is recorded with HIPAA compliant activity records and audit trails.

FileHub stands apart by allowing you to store files on the premises (even across multiple locations) and is built to scale up and out with your growing business. 

Some of the other features included in SmartFile’s solutions and FileHub include:

  • Secure access to network files off-site
  • Sharing and exchanging files via HTTPS, SFTP, FTPS
  • Connecting to users via branded, responsive portals
  • Exporting data (Syslog)
  • Authentication via AD/LDAP
  • Automating the complete file lifecycle
  • Managing other cloud storage

Virtual Data Rooms

Two parties meet in a room, each side represented by an attorney. Attorneys pass documents back and forth. Clients sign them. Everything is encapsulated within this singular room: private, efficient, and easy. Documents are laid out on a table, viewable to everyone. And no one needs to worry about anyone listening in.

Now, imagine this all happening digitally.

Virtual data rooms are a way to perfectly emulate the experience of a real life meeting in digital space. They go beyond standard tele-conferencing solutions by ensuring that everyone involved is able to collaborate with each other as though they were meeting in real life. Today, people are more frequently using a digital workspace than ever before. The need for a private, reliable, and manageable digital workspace is critical.

It’s easy to imagine a world in which a virtual data room is the major feature of any remote working environment. It replicates all the important aspects about meeting in place, without the requirement of actually being in the same geographic space.

SmartFile’s Virtual Data Room is that solution. It’s as easy to use as walking through a physical door, making an online conference as easy to launch as an in-person conference. By eliminating barriers to entry, companies are able to strongly encourage their employees to communicate and connect.

Employees are able to load their digital room and immediately be able to interact with each other on equal footing, view files as needed, and speak one-on-one. Altogether, this means that employees are less likely to shy away from communicating with each other, and more likely to gain something effective from their communications.

SmartFile’s Virtual Data Room provides both security and efficiency. Employees will want to use it because it’s fast and convenient, while companies are aware that their data is secure. Data is able to be secured on multiple levels:

  • Data is encrypted while it’s being sent and while it’s stored.
  • File permissions are used to protect access to the data.
  • Data is backed up, so it cannot be lost or overwritten.

SmartFile’s Virtual Data Room (VDR) system includes all the features that an organization needs for the purposes of ease-of-access, security, and document management. Rather than having to manage multiple systems, companies can instead have a single, consolidated system for their virtual meetings and file-sharing.

If you’re stressed by how your law firm’s files are currently being managed, you will benefit from our unrivaled file management system.

Perform due diligence and use SmartFile to mitigate risk. Give SmartFile a try for free today – no credit card required!

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About John Hurley

I am the CEO and Co-Founder of SmartFile. My role is to find the right people and give them the right tools and resources needed to grow both professionally and personally.

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