How Can Lawyers Guard Against Cyber Attacks?

imagesWe now live in a world where some of the greatest business threats come from cyber attacks. While governments and large corporations are targeted for their large data sets, corporations’ outside counsel may have a smaller set of more valuable and relevant documents. Accordingly, there is a growing trend of computer-savvy intruders becoming more and more attracted to law firm’s quality and quantity of documents. Law firms retain documents that include investment plans, business strategies, descriptions of technology secrets, and materials on mergers.  One data security company reports that 10% of the advanced cyber attacks it investigated in the past 18 months were targeted at law firms. Just last year, Chinese hackers attacked several Canadian law firms working on a $40 billion acquisition to steal strategic data.

Breaching the security of law firms jeopardizes a long-standing tradition that people should be able to seek legal advice with confidence that their secrets will not be exposed.

Often law firms have worse security for their client’s data than the client themselves, which attracts cyber attackers to law firms.  Generally, the client will usually have greater incentive to protect their own private information than the law firm because the clients are protecting their secrets while the law firm would suffer a smaller loss in the hypothetical fees that they could not bill to their client. A small law firm may lack the resources, technological knowledge, or the will to consistently keep its clients’ data adequately protected.

There are many problems that arise when law firms are cyber attacked.  Law firms might be tempted to not report cyber attacks because they may suffer damage to their reputation, reduce client confidence, and lose clients. However, if law firms remain silent, it would limit their ability to make corrective measures and share experiences with other law firms in a collaborative fashion to prevent future cyber attacks to others firms. Ethically, if a client’s information has been stolen, a lawyer has a responsibility to tell the client so they can mitigate the damage if possible.

Here is list of measures law firms can implement to thwart cyber attacks. By utilizing these measures, firms will be in a better position with their clients, the bar, and regulators by showing their security is aligned with the best practices, its management is engaged, and the most effective tools are deployed.
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1.  Hire a chief information security officer and give him/her a budget to hire the staff needed to safeguard digital assets with a security program. In hiring and creating the position, it is important that officer is not outranked by senior attorneys who think the security policies are too restrictive and detailed.

2.  Set policies throughout the company regarding the use of encryption, remote access, mobile devices, thumb drives, laptops, Web email accounts, and Wi-fi “hotspots.” A good start to setting such policies is getting lawyers to take modest steps towards maintaining a minimum level of competent online security.

3.  Compartmentalize extremely sensitive data that could cause the greatest harm if breached. One suggestion would be to keep this data on a separate server with stronger security protections.

4.  To gauge how well the previous steps have worked, contract third parties to run vulnerability and penetration scans.

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All these steps are battle techniques used to win the war against hackers!

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What Would You Do To Be #1 On A Google Search Result?

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Search engine optimization “(SEO)” is an effort to modify a website or web page to so that it will appear on the first page of the results from search engines such as Google and Bing. Because search engine users rarely go past the first page of search results, law firms strive for their websites to appear on the first page for as many keyword searches as possible.  In order to be first on the page, law firms should know the rules of the game, which means knowing as best as they can how the search engine works.

Google Runs the Game

Google Runs the Game

A Whole New Animal: Hummingbird

Google is the dominant search engine and when it changes its algorithms the whole game came changes with it. While it once used to operate Penguin and Panda, now comes Hummingbird. This logarithmic model is more social media oriented linking to Google+ in their quest to index everyone on planet earth for the next evolution of Google’s SEO code.

Importance of SEO for Small firms and Solo Practices:

An strong argument can be made that SEO can be more helpful for to small firms or solo practices than to large firms because SEO is the great equalizer. Big firms could be more established than small firms and solo practices but SEO can generate name recognition, and “internet credibility” with their firm showing up ahead of bigger firms in the targeted demographic.

In order for small firms and solo practices to get the edge in SEO, the following tips should be implemented:

1. Keyword Relevancy Throughout Content:

While marketing experts emphasize key words to get noticed by Google it is important that these words are naturally occurring within the context of the website.  Using key words is important but they must be surrounded with actual informative content.

2. Potent Backlinks:

In increasing your ranking, Google looks to how often your site is referenced by other websites. Therefore, it becomes critical to build links back to your website in as many directory sites as possible. This can be achieved through strategic use of social media such as LinkedIn, AVVO profile, and your BLOG. With Google owning YouTube and incorporating it within their algorithm, using videos to introduce yourself to prospective clients where you can briefly speak about interesting areas of your practice further increases SEO results.

3. Coding:

Solo practices can use metadata to increase website relevance. Metadata should not be abused though and be straightforward in accurately communicating correct names, areas of knowledge, and experience of practice.

4. Keep it Fresh:

Search Engines crave fresh, relevant, and compelling content and will reward you for it with higher rankings. A BLOG is a perfect platform for this content.

Problems with Avoiding the Rules of the Game:

Playing by the rules of the game will get you ahead in more ways than one

Playing by the rules of the game will get you ahead in more ways than one

If you are overwhelmed by these tips and want to resort to outsourcing your SEO, be aware of the drawbacks. Outsourcing your SEO could waste money in having someone build links, create buzz, and build a brand that tarnishes your reputation. Additionally, they may be ethical implications involved. You or your SEO guru should avoid cutting corners. Subscribing to “link farms” or “key word spamming” fosters a shady practice that will be sniffed out by Google algorithms and further tarnish the reputation of your firm. While other industries may throw away their “white hat,” in a race for the best SEO results, lawyers are professionals with licenses to uphold the law and should conduct ethical Search Engine Optimization practices.

Although the American Bar Association “Model Rules” of Professional Conduct does not explicating discuss SEO, the advertising ethics are applicable. Making the process more complicated is each jurisdiction has their own rules and regulations. Lawyers taking part in SEO must be careful to no conduct false, deceiving, or misleading communications to prospective clients. To play it safe, lawyers should notate each page with a disclaimer of “attorney advertising”. Several bar associations have issued opinions criticizing solo practitioners who tack on “& Associates” onto their own names. Pictures are important for SEO but some ethical rules actually prohibit the use of character actor portrayals on attorney media.Some states require “success stories” language on the website when referring to testimonials, referrals, and case studies.

While the rules may be messy, and the web is too, a lawyer’s moral compass should remain true in race for the best SEO results.

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Is a Paperless Legal World a Reality?

Can you imagine hitting this button and all your paper documents vanish and appear on your screen?

When envisioning a busy attorney’s office, the traditional scene includes a desk cluttered and stacked three feet high with paper files. Traditional small firms continue to be paper filled in part because the legal profession is slow to adapt to new technology. Big and midsize law firms have adapted to their needs ridding paper-based practice with the implementation of Document Management Systems, “DMSs”. What is Document Management System?  In big and midsize law firms, using a DMS is absolutely necessary in order to organize, index, and control hundreds of thousands of documents. These firms have realized the upfront purchase cost pales in comparison to the efficiency and productivity of the system.  More firms should leverage their DMS’s as a key strategic assetdms

One could view a DMS as traffic stop because it brings order to the chaos of so many documents. In large firms or corporate practice, DMS’s are a centralized force that unifies a firm in classifying and labeling documents to best prepare for retrieval of all relevant documents in response to an electronic discovery request. With proper training, employees will be on the same page in how to store and name documents so long as there is employee compliance. Additionally, with large firms, there is a great deal of employees that should not have access to confidential documents. DMS provides confidentiality and restricted access to documents.  Productivity is enhanced with DMS because multiple attorneys and legal support staff can work on editing documents using audit trails that record the progression of documents while also allowing different employees to simultaneously work on it.

Death by Paper

Scanning hard copies of documents into a DMS can be your solution. Depending on the size of a firm and the pay of an employee, paralegals scanning in documents is more expensive than outsourcing the work. Young associates in large firms should not scavenge large off-site storage facilities filled with piles of paper. Document management systems have invaluable retention capabilities of archiving old documents off the main serve to save valuable space but still making them more accessible than paper-filled warehouse.  The key piece of scanning documents is producing them as PDF’s, not image only PDF’s, which cannot be text searched. Purchasing newer software packages like Omni Page Pro for a scanner allows a scanned document to be recognized by each individual word and opened for editing within Word Processor.

New Rules of the Game

Today attorneys are swamped with information that goes beyond the traditional documents generated by the firm to include emails, faxes, inter-office messaging, scanned documents and pages saved from the Internet.  With the new Federal Rules of Civil Procedure requiring parties in litigation to preserve documents that exist only in the electronic form, a DMS is critical. A document management system allows organizations to prepare for e-discovery with the help of tools like document profiling, or metadata preservation, version control, audit trial, security and document retention. Another benefit of managing such electronic documents and data is managing and avoiding employee misconduct.

While a truly paperless world is an environmentalist law’s utopia, it is not a reality because some types of documents must remain in “original” paper form. However, for the vast majority of documents you should start scanning and enjoy the shredding.

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Want more “Office Space”? Don’t burn paper. Scan it and shred it.

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Judging the Software Debate: Buy vs. Rent

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The Old: Buying a Perpetual License

A decade and half ago, companies would only buy perpetual license agreements for their business software. When purchasing software, there was and still is a tangible ownership feeling associated with owning the software. If companies have the upfront capital to purchase the software, running on sporadic big paydays, perpetual license agreements for software may be more advantageous.

The New: Subscribe to Software

The growing trend of companies to subscribe to software has cut into the success of buying a perpetual license. Subscription revenue in the software industry is growing at a much faster 5-year 2011-2016 growth rate than perpetual license revenue — 17.5% versus 4% respectively. With companies not having such large amounts of cash on hand, this option may be more attractive. Additionally, with renewed subscription, a relationship can form between the vendor and the customer, with the vendor forced to show the added value of the product during each renewal.

Verdict…

The debate is far from settled and depends on the unique circumstances of the business. There comes a point in time when the subscription becomes more costly than the perpetual license agreements. A perpetual license often covers one year of maintenance free of charge and then costs would start accumulating. On the other hand, maintenance for subscription renewals are discounted or included with the free upgrades.  A perpetual license uses large capital to purchase software that could alternatively be used for a for deferred tax credit.

A Lawyer’s Guidance of Software License Agreements:articles-images-making-sense-of-software-licensing

With more companies entering into subscription license agreements, there are more customized agreements instead of boilerplate language. Lawyers therefore serve a key purpose in advising their client on signing off to the most advantageous license agreements.  What lawyers need to do is advocate on behalf of companies against software vendors to receive better terms of control over access, use, and resale of information for their clients. This software is generally not over-the-shelf software with non-negotiable terms. Rather, it is software tailored to specific businesses with unique agreements that a lawyer should review.

When reviewing license agreement, lawyers should focus on the “use” section of the agreement. Then, lawyers can provide clients with specific answers to where and how often you can install the software? Can you copy, modify or redistribute it? All of these answers will help prevent the company from risk of copyright infringement. Additionally, vendors can change terms at will or withdraw access if stipulated in the secured license agreements, which is another reason why it is important that lawyers review these agreements. Lawyers should reduce liability through including indemnification provisions that limit exposure if the software infringes on a third party’s intellectual rights. In the case of potential data breach issues involving software, attorneys should examine the liability coverage. For all these reasons, lawyers should advise companies of the potential risks and remedies available when entering software license agreements.

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How Important are Presentations for Non-Trial Attorneys?

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Imagine sitting through a two-hour presentation during lunchtime but you are unable to eat. Additionally, imagine this presentation has a handout distributed that is identical to the word document projected at the front of the lecture hall. Finally, imagine the presenter reading verbatim the document without contributing any other thoughts. 

I experienced this ineffective presentation in a law school course on my first day. The presentation was redundant, bland, and disengaging. Realize that I am not holding the presentation to a Steve Jobs standard that unveils a new apple product. Rather, I am comparing it to what a competent law professor would present on the first day of class to narrate the highlights of the upcoming semester.

The professor could have modified the presentation to engage the students. Breaking down the word document into captivating slides, as shown below, could have highlighted specific points while retaining the attention of the class. Even simply asking students to go around reading the portions of the documents would have been better.

The Prime Importance of Presentations

While it is clear that presentations are critical component of a trial attorney’s practice in the courtroom, presentations are also an essential part of almost every lawyer’s business efforts. There are blogs and books written specifically to strengthen a lawyer’s presentation skills. Attorneys practicing outside the courtroom need to make effective presentations as a marketing tool for themselves to attract potential clients and to their own firms.  Lawyers are trained to be persuasive, informative and logical, and their presentations should reflect their abilities. Effective presentations are important for the simple task of relaying information to clients. Additionally, attorneys should have effective Continued Legal Education (CLE) presentations to qualify as a source of accreditation for other attorneys.  No matter the setting or subject of the law, presentations are vital component of an attorney’s practice.

3 Tips to Make a Presentation a Performance

1. It is important to craft a story that sets up the audiences expectations about what they will get out of the presentation and why they should care. Eventually by the end of the story, the audience will be prompted to ask what action is needed now.  When creating a presentation, start with paper not PowerPoint.

2. Use effective slides. Images are extremely powerful and people can learn and recall information better when presented as pictures rather than words.  And when using words, make sure to write and speak in plain language that is consistent and concrete. Avoid using bullet points because they can be over-used and don’t relate the same way images do. Guns don’t kill people. Bullets do.

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3. Rehearse the presentation through multiple practice rounds. While it may be time-consuming and feel repetitive, a presenter will increase there speaking ability and “flow” through practice.

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Weighing the Use of Social Media for Attorneys

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It may be difficult to determine how to balance all the different social media platforms while still interconnecting them.

While a variety of industries have seamlessly incorporated social media to increase business, the legal professionals are late adopters to social media and have not fully utilized the many benefits of social media.  Attorneys who venture into the social media landscape can reach new heights in visibility and networking. For instance, former federal prosecutor David Lat, @DavidLat, founded the popular law firm insider blog “Above the Law”, using Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn to further grow his blog and brand. Still, other attorneys have been reluctant to venture into the social media landscape. In assessing the value of social media to the legal profession, this blog post lists in importance several social media platforms and offers suggestions on their utility.

1. LinkedIn: The Professional Platform

LinkedIn serves the legal profession as the best source of building networks. A typical Google search for an attorney will find an attorney’s LinkedIn profile (assuming they have one) within the first couple of results. This is a valuable opportunity for attorneys to publish a favorable profile describing who they are and what they do, which can lead to prospective clients. To enhance your LinkedIn profile, attorneys should collaborate with colleagues, obtain referrals, and join LinkedIn groups to cast a greater network.  By editing your profile to highlight your work experiences, an attorney can gain great credibility. Simply put, LinkedIn is the professional version of Facebook. IT IS A NECESSITY!

2. Facebook: Popular Yet Personal Social Media

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Of the legal firms that maintain a presence in the social network, 92% maintain a presence in LinkedIn while only 58% are involved with Facebook. The key distinction in using Facebook properly is creating a professional business page that is separate from your personal page. Personal pages generally pose the most problems and must be attended to with detail and caution. An attorney should constantly review the privacy settings of their personal page, be selective in accepting the appropriate friends, and create strategic friend lists to conceal certain parts of your profile.  As a backup, assume anyone can access your personal page. The most an attorney can get out of Facebook is through participation in relevant groups and using updates to send news and relevant links of value to your network. With Facebook having over one-billon users, there is no denying its relevance, however, attorneys should maintain a professional focus.

3. Twitter: Teetering in Active or Passive Use

download (1)Twitter teeters as a business networking site and a personal networking site. Twitter can be used actively and passively. Actively, the 140 characters in a tweet can consist of links to case law, links to other attorneys and links to other social networks. Thus, Twitter can facilitate traffic to other Internet destinations, specifically an attorney’s blog. Passively, even if an attorney chooses not to tweet, Twitter is an valuable to follow relevant publications in an area of law, follow professional organizations and conferences, and follow government agencies and courts. If an attorney chooses to tweet personal information, he or she should be selective and cautious or just use a separate Twitter account. The main disclaimer is think before you tweet.

4. Foursquare: Is there a Future?

Foursquare allow attorneys to “check in” at any location with their phones GPS and is used manly in big tech-savy cities. It can be used as a marketing tool that leaves tips about navigating courtrooms. Additionally, it can be used to see other attorney’s in your vicinity to see potential networking opportunities. Ultimately though, other forms of social media should be prioritized before taking up Foursquare due to it’s limited networking capabilities and usage in the legal community. The use of Foursquare is location specific.

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The Case for Law Blogs


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Summary Judgment for Active Marketing

One of the greatest benefits from a law blog is marketing. Law blogs are a cost effective way to optimize an attorney’s online visibility within the search engine rankings. Blogs have built-in syndication feeds that alert search engines of new postings. With an attorney concentrating on blogging in a niche are of the law, the attorney’s blog can become a “go to” resource in that field, generating sizable traffic which can ultimately lead to referrals and clients. An attorney can be helpful and knowledgeable by commenting and posting links to other useful information that further demonstrates an attorney’s awareness of the dialogue surrounding the topic. Additionally, an attorney’s blog can be valuable and active marketing tool in generating traffic to a firm’s passive website.

Motion to Strengthen the Field of Law

Law blogs improve the actual field of law.  Law review articles are outdated as they lag behind in the discussion about some of the most relevant legal topics or altogether fail to mention them. However, law blogs provide immediate commentary on controversial court decisions and statutory law. Also, law blogging is open to the entire legal profession creating richer legal discussion than law reviews, which consist mostly of academics. Attorneys are generally not very technical-savy people, but blogging provides them the an easy method of participating in online discourse that engages other attorneys on specific subject matters that can lead to collaborations and further networking opportunities.

Motion to Suppress the Traditional Legal Writing

Law blogs are similar to law reviews in that they both provide commentary that tends to be original, but the style of writing and the substance differ greatly. Law blogs are informal opinions that shed light on the writer’s personality but do not have immaculate citation. The key structuring difference in making law blogs successful is catchy headings, concise content, and aesthetically pleasing format. Law blogs are even further different from legal documents such as motions and briefs. Traditional legal writing in documents serves it’s audience, judges and clerks, by focusing on detailed analysis of case law that makes retaining the information a long and difficult task. Law blogs intend to serve a wider audience by attracting readers with arguments that are not purely rooted in case law and not complicated by such formalistic legal jargon.

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