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It’s safe to say that cloud-based technology has become an ingrained part of our lives. Most of us use the cloud daily without a second thought: from LinkedIn and Slack to Netflix, Zoom, and, of course, Dropbox.
Dropbox has been the name in cloud storage since the early days of the cloud.
Not surprisingly, cloud-based tools have become increasingly popular in the business world to streamline and improve efficiencies, particularly with more people working remotely due to the pandemic. And a key use of the cloud among businesses has been for storage.
But while businesses have been eager to use cloud-based tools, it’s a bit of a different story in the legal profession and Dropbox for lawyers. When it comes to joining the Dropbox bandwagon, the legal industry has been a bit hesitant, largely due to questions and concerns about security.
If you’ve been considering using Dropbox at your law firm, we’ve got what you need to know for keeping your files secure.
Let’s get to it.
Cloud Use Among Lawyers
The legal industry isn’t exactly leading the way with cloud-based tools. According to the American Bar Association’s (ABA) 2021 Legal Technology Survey Report, the legal industry is lagging when it comes to cloud use.
In fact, in 2021, the reported use of cloud technologies in the legal profession remained flat or even declined, despite the pandemic and shifts to working from home. “This result is difficult to comprehend, let alone explain,” noted the ABA report.
The ABA’s report found that cloud usage among lawyers increased by only 1% in 2021 – up to 60% from 59% – with small and mid-size firms leading the way when it comes to usage.
And what’s the most popular tool among lawyers using the cloud? You guessed it: Dropbox.
The ABA found that in 2021, 62% of lawyers reported they were already using Dropbox. In addition, nearly five times as many respondents said they used Dropbox as the most popular legal-specific cloud tool.
Despite the slow progress, cloud-based tools look likely to become a standard approach in legal technology. But the ABA also points out that there are still some misunderstandings about what cloud services are. Case in point: The 62% of lawyers using Dropbox is higher than the 60% of survey respondents who say they use cloud technology.
Is Dropbox Secure for Lawyers?
Considering the confidential information that lawyers deal with, it’s understandable that security would be top of mind for using Dropbox.
So, is Dropbox safe for lawyers to use? At a 2020 ABA Techshow, Nicole Black, a lawyer and legal technology journalist, said that cloud-based tools are usually more secure for solo lawyers and small and mid-size firms than if they kept their data in-house.
“You’re going to get a lot more security provided, both in terms of physical servers themselves and also in terms of your data, and its encryption levels and their ability to shield your data from an attack or breach,” explained Black.
Dropbox has many features to keep files secure, including encryption, optional two-factor authentication, and permissions-based access. Lawyerist contributor Eric Cooperstein stated a few years back: “Dropbox is more secure than anything most lawyers have used to secure their files from the Battle of Hastings until about five or ten years ago.”
That said, any device connected to the internet comes with some level of risk. Unfortunately, there is no such thing as guaranteed security. Using Dropbox at your law firm should be like any other technology, meaning you need to be aware of and monitor potential risks.
Lawyers should also be aware that Dropbox’s current terms of service include a mandatory arbitration provision and bans class actions against the company. What’s more, in certain situations, Dropbox could provide user information to law enforcement.
How Lawyers Can Keep Dropbox Files Secure
If you’re interested in using Dropbox, there are a few measures you can take to increase security.
For starters, you’ll want to enable Dropbox’s two-step verification. With two-step verification, Dropbox will require a six-digit security code in addition to your password whenever you sign in to your account or link a new device.
Speaking of passwords, make sure you create a complex password that isn’t used for anything else and that you switch it up periodically. Consider this: In the first three months of 2019, Microsoft found that 44 million users were employing usernames and passwords that had leaked online following security breaches at other online services. That explains why one of the most significant security risks is actually from the user end of the Dropbox experience. Since users may face social engineering attacks designed to trick them into providing credentials and access to accounts, make sure your firm has protocols and best practices in place to help prevent cyber incidents.
It’s also worthwhile using file-level encryption on important files that you store on Dropbox. For example, it’s possible to create a password to encrypt documents created in Microsoft Office, or you can use a third-party encryption tool, like Boxcryptor.
It’s important to note that in most cases, cloud service providers won’t cover your losses in the event of a cyber incident. So if you don’t yet have a cyber insurance policy, you may want to consider it if you plan to use Dropbox or any other cloud-based service. Cyber insurance can protect your law firm if a cyber incident occurs by covering expenses, providing a crisis PR response, and handling client notifications.
When Should Lawyers Not Use Dropbox?
Because there’s no such thing as absolute security, there are some instances when cloud storage may not be suitable. No two clients are the same, so it’s critical to consider each client’s circumstances and whether an additional layer of security is required.
For example, lawyers handling sensitive information, such as trade secrets or information related to a famous (or infamous) client, may need to take additional security precautions.
As Nicole Black said at the 2020 Techshow: “There’s certain things that are that sensitive that you probably want to protect and not put in the cloud and have this extra layer of protection within your office because that information is so valuable to people that have a reason to try to access it.”
Something else to keep in mind is that if your firm handles medical malpractice or if you work in any area of law where looking at patient records may occur, HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) compliance in document storage and sharing is crucial. However, HIPAA compliance capabilities are only available with Dropbox through a paid Business plan.
There’s a good reason why Dropbox is so popular among lawyers. Not only does Dropbox provide flexibility on when, where, and how you access files, it can also bring increased efficiency, improved workflows, and the ability to serve clients better.
If you’re not sure how your clients will react to you using Dropbox, advise them in writing (making it part of your legal services agreement is a good idea) that you are using it and that they should let you know of any concerns they have.
As with any technology, take time to get familiar with Dropbox and its features, so you know how it will work for you, your firm, and, most importantly, your clients.
Want to learn about how cyber insurance can benefit your law firm? Contact one of our experienced brokers or visit Embroker’s digital platform to get an online quote.