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Offering clients the ultimate peace of mind – a new approach to security and remediation for legal firms


Although the sector as a whole has traditionally been comparatively wary of the ever-increasing pace of technology, legal services are increasingly data driven, with an abundance of AI-related discussion emerging within legal technology circles. The core Document Management Systems (DMS) and Practice Management Systems (PMS) remain the centre of focus for how and where to deploy a variety of rapidly maturing SaaS platforms, or dedicated, highly customised suites.

It goes without saying that the integrity of data within these systems is at the heart of firms' reputations, and as their IT infrastructure continues to evolve, will offer numerous opportunities around AI and process automation, which will prove transformative for the entire sector. However, all legal data is inherently sensitive by nature, which makes it an ever-attractive target for cyber criminals.

So, there's no doubt that it's an exciting time for the sector as a whole, and my team and I continue to enjoy engaging with legal IT leaders keen to accelerate their digital goals and drive a competitive edge, which indicates the journey is far from over. But, as with any period of intensive digital innovation, it's important to always maintain focus on governance… Particularly when it comes to the integrity of clients' sensitive data.

Next-generation technology breeds next-generation challenges

Whilst all reputable firms now have several layers of data protection in place, the landscape has been drastically complicated by the ongoing movement of critical assets into SaaS platforms, which has created a number of new attack vectors that firms are often unaware of until disaster strikes. As recently as November and December of 2023, high-profile legal firms were forced to publicly admit that they had fallen victim to ransomware attacks, and that their clients' data was in the hands of cybercriminals.

The consequences of such attacks can be devastating for legal firms, not only in terms of the disruption to their work, their clients, and the potential for huge fines if they are found to have breached data protection regulations, but also in terms of the ongoing reputational damage. By their very nature, firms handle some of their clients' most sensitive data, which means they must be able to demonstrate that it will remain secure throughout the duration of the working relationship and handled in full compliance with all applicable regulations. Being able to demonstrate the recoverability of said data is also imperative for cyber insurance compliance.

Unfortunately, ransomware also continues to evolve at an unprecedented rate, as bad actors look to exploit new attack vectors at 'zero day' – as soon as they appear – and devise ever more insidious strategies to overcome the increasing sophistication of cyber security ecosystems, particularly by exploiting simple human error, which sadly remains the leading cause of data breaches.

A multifaceted approach to ransomware protection, tailored to firms' unique security and compliance requirements, is clearly required, which requires legal IT leaders to "plan to fail, rather than fail to plan" – remediation is as essential as protection.

Establishing a new standard of resilience for legal data

This new model must encompass all aspects of firms' IT infrastructure, from an intelligent approach to Cloud transformation, the software-defined model for networking, and the use of immutable backup technology for all critical data – all of which must be supported by ongoing cyber security awareness training for staff at all levels, ensuring they are aware of their individual responsibilities. Cyber security ecosystems must be optimised to minimise potential attack vectors, patch vulnerabilities as soon as they are identified, and ensure best practice is followed across the entire firm.

However, as we touched on earlier, protection (while still very much essential) is no longer enough. As we have mentioned, planning to fail is failing to plan, and so a robust data protection strategy must also factor in the need for effective remediation and disaster recovery. Indeed, this is increasingly required as part of firms' ever more stringent insurance requirements. Systems and processes must be established to ensure critical data can be restored and secured as quickly as possible – ideally in days, not months – should a breach occur. This will not only ensure any operational disruption (not to mention the potentially fatal financial and reputational damage) can be minimised, but also ensure clients' data can be secured without giving in to the ransom demand. To this end, Exponential-e have developed a focused portfolio to maximise the resiliency of the UK's legal firms, centred around our ownRansomware Defender solution, as well as providing protection of data within SaaS DMS.

The fundamental purpose of the Resiliency Portfolio is to enable firms to enhance your "Defence in Depth" strategy:

  • Minimise the chance of compromise
  • Reduce the impact of attack
  • Accelerate the pace of recovery

Firms who are willing to work closely with their trusted technology partners to stay one step ahead of bad actors will be able to offer their clients complete confidence that the integrity of their data will be maintained, even in the event of a breach. This, in turn, will help build and maintain confidence in the sector as a whole at a time when cyber security is a growing concern for the general public.

If you're keen to take proactive steps towards securing your own firm's critical infrastructure against ransomware attacks, I strongly recommend our recent white paper, Rethinking Data Security and Disaster Recovery in the Legal Sector, where I consider the key challenges firms must consider, and explore this new, holistic approach to cyber security and remediation in greater depth.

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