Legal Department Cybersecurity: Risks & Best Practices

First Reviewed : June 29, 2023
Last Reviewed: June 29, 2023

Legal departments have a key role to play in keeping their legal matters safe and secure. One of the reasons the legal field is slow to adopt technology is because they need to assess security before trusting a platform. With legal tech created for the task, legal departments can mitigate the risks of cyber threats, safeguard vital information, and secure the interests of all parties and stakeholders. 

Today’s swiftly changing compliance environment focuses on data protection and cybersecurity. It’s imperative that the legal department make sure their organizations stay compliant with compliance and regulatory measures. The legal department, equipped with legal tech, can keep abreast of any updates in compliance needs and provide a strategy to stay compliant while securing data.

Cybersecurity Risks in the Legal Industry 

Legal departments are no strangers to the risks associated with cyber threats. Data and information within legal departments need to be vigilantly guarded with layers of security. In the wrong hands, legal data may breach terms of contracts, expose sensitive information, and risk unnecessary exposure. 

Some cybersecurity risks that legal departments may face include:

  1. Phishing attempts 
  2. Online hacking 
  3. Ransomware
  4. Security breaches
  5. Website attacks  

When legal departments partner with technology and risk management teams, they can identify and assess potential cybersecurity risks. The risk management, technology, and legal departments can outline strategies to mitigate risks, implement cybersecurity controls for admins and users only, and conduct frequent cybersecurity audits.

5 Ways to Secure Legal Departments With Cybersecurity 

1) Carry out a data security and privacy audit

Perhaps the most crucial step of a cybersecurity strategy, a data security and privacy audit is crucial to ensuring cybersecurity success. Legal departments should analyze their company’s rules along with local (and if applicable, international) guidelines involving technology and relay of information. In addition, specific cybersecurity measures such as use of cookies, web-bug use, and media hot-button issues can be included if relevant. 

A privacy task force should include individuals from the legal department, sales and/or marketing, tech, and HR. Once in place, this team can review their company’s collection, maintenance, security, use, and disclosure to third parties. Privacy information may be categorized according to Personally Identifiable/Non-personally Identifiable, Sensitive/Non-sensitive, and Highly-sensitive and should be assigned a relevant label and protected accordingly.

2) Provide cybersecurity training to staff

Ideally, the legal department should team up with their HR and tech departments to create a cybersecurity training program for employees. With a holistic approach, this training will ensure that employees know their cybersecurity and legal obligations, what data protection is, how to safely and effectively use technology, and instill good cybersecurity practices. 

3) Formulate incident response plan

The critical part of a cyberattack is to follow an incident plan. Legal and IT teams need to outline a strategy to escalate these issues and alert the organization. Collaborative cybersecurity teams will ideally have a contingency plan in place to notify users, the company, and stakeholders of the attack. Post-incident, the legal team will spearhead a strategy to potentially handle legal disputes or regulatory investigations.

4) Monitor vendor cybersecurity 

Legal departments should draft and negotiate contracts with third-party vendors, service providers, and clients, with their cybersecurity measures in place. All contracts should include and address data protection, confidentiality, data ownership, security incident reporting, and liability in case of data breaches. Tech and cybersecurity risk teams should monitor vendor cybersecurity measures periodically to ensure they meet the latest rules and regulations and that they adhere to company policies. 

5) Staying compliant with rules and regulations 

The legal department assists in developing and implementing privacy policies, data protection practices, and data breach response plans. They work closely with other departments, such as IT and HR, to ensure compliance with data protection laws, such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) or the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA).  

The role of legal departments evolves with disruptions in legal, such as legal technology. Today’s legal departments are an intrinsic part of their company’s cybersecurity strategies and help craft these with their legal inputs. Involved legal departments are at the frontline of organizational cyber security. 

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