Smart but Risky – Mobile Devices in the Legal Department

So everyone is doing everything on their phones these days. Shopping, planning, working, gaming and maybe even calling people with it too. Even more startling, lawyers aren’t excluded from this either. Google docs and calendar, bill tracking applications and legal knowledge apps, and all sorts of other tools on your handheld device – I haven’t even mentioned email yet.

But with new technologies come new risks, as lawyers well know. Most notably, this is related to the information that we can now all access, share and create using phones, tablets and other ‘smart’ devices. As Philip Favro, Senior Discover Counsel for Reccomind Inc, wrote on Inside Counsel recently:

“In particular, mobile device use lessens the extent of corporate control over confidential business information. Whether that information consists of trade secrets, proprietary financial information or attorney-client privileged discussions, difficulties in policing mobile devices allow employees the opportunity to misappropriate data more easily… With a single touch of a smartphone screen, an employee can direct sensitive company data to personal cloud providers, social networking sites or WikiLeaks pages.”

He goes onto mention the other threat of lawyers losing mobile devices, which surveys have shown to be the most severe vulnerability associated with the increasing usage of them. As such, legal departments to mitigate for situations such as these through working with the IT department to ensure that the company remains in control of the data stored on devices related to it, even when the devices go awol. While the devices may be physically lost, companies need to be to ensure that the data on these devices can be protected remotely.

Manageable use policies are clearly needed as well to ensure that employees handle company data on their devices in a secure manner. Further to this, training and policy enforcement will be needed to ensure the success of these policies. While company staff should now be mostly competent at using modern technologies including smart phones and tablets, you can never be too sure with lawyers and as such, GCs need to take a lead in terms of using their devices properly, but also ensuring that their department staff do so competently and in line with these policies too. In the USA, the ABA’s announcement in 2012 that it would make technological competency a core professional requirement for lawyers now makes this an industry requirement, as well as a requirement from the company as a whole.

These new technologies are, ultimately, great things in that they allow lawyers to work in a more mobile and flexible way. But, as with everything, it is part of the lawyer’s job to see the risks that innovations bring.

About William Barns-Graham

William is the content manager and head of communications at GC Research Club. He is a professional journalist, researcher and strategist. He has worked at GC Research Club since February 2013 and has rapidly become a distinguished voice in the in-house legal blogging community, writing on Lexis Nexis and interviewing leading legal thinkers and writers, in house lawyers and CEOs within the legal tech world. He has also coordinated the GCRC Sports Panel series.
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