When an American client approaches their lawyer and discusses the details of their case, they feel confident because they know they are protected by attorney-client privilege. Essentially, attorney-client privilege prevents an attorney from disclosing confidential information related to the case, and this protection is what helps people place trust and faith in their legal counsel.
Attorney-client privilege seems like a simple concept for most lawyers, but it's becoming much more complex in the digital age. According to the American Bar Association, cyber attacks against law firms are on the rise, which is making clients feel more vulnerable and apprehensive than ever before.
Cyber attacks against law firms: by the numbers
The dawn of the 21st century ushered in an era in which new technology seemed to be revealed faster than ever before. In the span of a decade, people went from periodically accessing the Internet on a desktop computer to having immediate and constant access to the Internet in the palm of their hands. As people became more reliant on the Internet and on their devices, they began dumping more and more private data into online portals.
Law firms were no exception. The digital age required lawyers to begin communicating with their clients via e-mail and text, and in turn, forced them to start storing private, confidential details on firm equipment and servers. In 2012, media outlets such as The Washington Post began to warn against the risk of cyber crimes against law firms. Many of their articles stated that lawyers should begin preparing for an onslaught of cyber attacks.
As it turns out, their predictions came true. Cyber attacks against law firms rose significantly between 2012 and 2017. In fact, by 2017, law firms of all sizes and in all cities were prone to cyber attack. The attacks were becoming so common that most law firms were warned that it was a matter of when, not if, an attack would occur.
The impact of cyber attacks on law firms
In addition to leaving clients' private and personal data susceptible, cyber attacks have a significant impact on a law firm's bottom line. These attacks can be costly in a variety of ways, including:
- The inability to conduct daily business because servers have been compromised. Some law firms are left without working computers or phones.
- Increased costs to replace technology that otherwise would have been maintained and used for a longer period of time.
- The loss of billable hours, as attorneys have to work to minimize the impact of the data breach rather than focus on their current caseload.
- Loss of revenue as a result of damage to the firm's reputation.
What you need to know about attorneys' standard of care for cyber security
Attorneys must meet these standards:
- Maintain the existing rules, regulations and codes for providing clients with ethical treatment. Attorney-client privilege still exists, even in a digital age, and attorneys must take care to guard the confidential data of their clients.
- Stay abreast of the latest changes in technology. Attorneys should consider new technological advances, and weigh the benefits versus the disadvantages before implementing new technology into their practice.
- Monitor all cyber activity that takes place within the firm. Depending on the size of the firm, it may be advantageous to hire an individual whose sole responsibility is creating a digital protection strategy and enforcing cyber security measures at the law firm.
Facts about cyber security legal malpractice claims
Cyber security legal malpractice claims are becoming increasingly common and increasingly complex. To avoid these claims, law firms should actively work to create a strategy that will prevent cyber attacks or minimize the impact of the attacks. It's becoming common knowledge that these attacks are on the rise, and therefore, it is expected that legal practices will make some sort of effort to prevent them in order to protect their clients.
The digital age has had a significant impact on the legal field. Claims are becoming more complex and intricate than ever before, which requires you to hire an attorney who is dedicated to collecting the facts and evidence necessary to protect you and advocate for you.