Document Security for Legal Technology: Confidentiality Without Compromise


01/21/2019

lawyer office
 
Law firms and legal departments of businesses and government organizations spend a great deal of their time immersed in one or more stages of the document lifecycle. Most law firms use a combination of a document management repositories, matter management services, and cloud-based or local file-shares. However, client files can be challenging to find without enterprise search and governance.

What helps eliminate that search dilemma? It starts with implementing a document lifecycle that works for your company, which includes the following stages:

  • Capture and Organize
  • Review and Collaborate
  • Workflow and Approval
  • Publish and Share

However, document workflows can increase security concerns. If files go outside the firewall or aren’t safeguarded by encryption, redaction, and digital rights management (DRM), sensitive client and internal data can get into the wrong hands. Let’s look at these four document lifecycle stages as they relate to the legal industry, and explore how document security is crucial, yet attainable.
 


 

Document Capture and Organization

 
As case files grow, more documents are added to the workload. Once a document is created, it must be converted into a searchable digital format like a PDF. Often times, it's easier to create a searchable PDF with all the information from the case in one collective document.

However, merging different file types together can be a hassle. With a solution for multi-file conversion, you can easily profile each case with metadata such as author, case number, and etc. to enhance the file’s discoverability. Using a conversion such as this enables a paralegal or attorney to:

  • Watermark the file to impede unauthorized document copying
  • Redact a document for sensitive phrases, sentences, or words using powerful search and hit highlighting
  • Apply encryption and distribute keys or passwords for privileged users
  • Use digital rights management controls to restrict who can print, download, copy, or share a document

Once the document is filed in the designated repository or file-share, that content will either follow the workflow rules of an ECM folder or remain in the folder until it is needed again. Whether the document is viewed right away or moves to a designated reviewer, it is critical that it is secured and accessible only by a privileged few based on business need.
 


 

Review and Collaborate

 
Many law firms and legal professionals within government organizations have restrictions on the file viewing applications they install on computers and mobile devices. This protects corporate devices, facilitates file access, and enhances security. With the right toolkit in your application, you can redact any further sensitive content within the document which should be restricted to protect the client, firm, or organization which wasn’t completed in the first stage.

In some cases, you can even highlight, annotate, and comment on the document as it is going through revisions. Plus, you can merge multiple file types into a single file for eDiscovery or litigation readiness. Instead of multiple file types in a folder, all requiring their own viewing and editing application like Word, e-mails, or PDF attachments, a simple integration into your legal application can provide access to an entire case file.

This makes your document management process a breeze for everyone involved. Minimize search time for case files, ensure consistent permissions and controls on original documents, and reduce the number of file attachments sent internally and externally, regardless of size.
 


 

Workflow and Approval

 
Documents like contracts often go through multiple internal and external reviews before being approved by eSignatures. They may pass back and forth through a virtual deal room between joint venture partners or lead up to a merger or acquisition. The documents involved in these circumstances are very sensitive and could be disastrous if they are viewed by the wrong external or internal user.

Until all the details are finalized, functions like encryption, DRM, and redaction can be the last line of defense between a company or individual’s successful future or their destruction. All along the workflow path, redactions, comments, and signatures can be maintained. Workflows can follow pre-configured triggers just as easily as manually sharing files.
 


 

Publish and Share

 
Once a document is finalized or a court case is completed, law firms or legal departments often need to make them accessible to the public. Other times, it may be a private entity who needs access through a CRM application, website CMS, or ECM archive. These files often need to be accessible through laptops, smartphones, and tablets. Merging multiple documents into a single PDF or URL are common sharing methods for legal technology platforms.

For legal tech application development professionals, building custom document management functionality into their own applications may be too resource intensive, or isn’t as urgent a priority as it should be. Legal professionals that need this capability should encourage their legal tech vendors to explore the opportunity of embedding secure, standards-based APIs and proven SDKs into their platforms.

Are you a partner in a law firm, corporate counsel, or legal technology executive looking to embed document security and lifecycle management capabilities into your application stack?

Visit us at LegalTech 2019 in New York, January 28-31. We'll be at booth #234 on Level II. See you there.

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