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Technology, Security, and the Law: Protecting Your Clients and Their Financial Data

Technology, Security, and the Law: Protecting Your Clients and Their Financial Data on bossreporting.com

How law firms can protect the confidential data of its clients

The internet has made many aspects of life easier, including the ability to easily transfer and access information. It’s also revolutionized the business world, enabling many companies to expand upon the services they offer because of the ease of scalability online. You no longer need more brick and mortar space or staff – just more server space (and maybe not even that, thanks to cloud computing.)

However, this newfound availability comes with concerns. Thanks to numerous highly-publicized online security breaches, consumers now want to know who has access to their private information and tend to place a lot of value on confidentiality.

People understand that doing business with your company may involve sharing personal information, but the concern comes with what happens after that. Will your business sell or distribute their data to third-party vendors without consent? Is your business capable of keeping online information safe?

Consumer protection

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) enacted a law to address these concerns. The Gramm-Leach-Billey Act (GLBA) was passed in November 1999 and included privacy protections such as allowing consumers more knowledge or control regarding the distribution of their private information from financial institutions to third parties. The FTC attempted to extend the GLBA to cover attorneys that practiced areas of law that involved finances, such as tax planning and preparation, real estate closing, debt collection, financial planning or management, estate planning, wills, and trusts.

The American Bar Association was eventually awarded an exemption from the GLBA for attorneys, due in part to the fact that ethical guidelines within the legal profession are already very similar to disclosure requirements of the GLBA. However, it’s still essential that law practices that handle financially-related services adhere to the GLBA’s basic tenets, and act within ethical guidelines.

Safeguarding client data

So, not sharing the data of your clients with unnecessary third-parties is the easiest and most obvious first step in protecting data. But in this day and age where everything is digital, how can you go above and beyond to safeguard the information entrusted to you?

There is no one-size-fits-all answer, and be prepared to revisit this issue constantly. As new technology continues to evolve, so do potential threats. However, some basics to consider include:

  • Email: Using a secure email account is essential. Gmail or other free services are not appropriate for transmitting client information. Encrypt all correspondence and if a subject is particularly sensitive, ask the client what method of delivery they prefer.
  • Staff: Make client confidentiality a part of your company culture. Discuss potential vulnerabilities, only allow access on a need to know basis, and change passwords frequently. Keep paper records under lock and key and store fax machines in a private area. Shred sensitive documents that are no longer relevant.
  • Security: Outsource your initial security set-up to a trusted IT professional to make sure your firm has a reliable process for blocking and responding to threats and vulnerabilities, including software updates, patch management, virus protection, firewall configuration, web and email gateway monitoring, and other technical details.
  • Vendors: Carefully research and choose potential online vendors. Read all related terms and conditions agreements and ensure that these agreements are legally enforceable. Choose well-established, fully vetted companies whenever possible.
  • Encryption and two-factor authentication: Establish that your system is fully encrypted for data in transit and employ two-factor authentication for all remote connections involving the firm’s technical infrastructure.
  • Intrusion detection: Make sure your set-up actively searches for indications of a security breach and retains system logs in case it’s necessary to recreate behavior to determine the scope of exposure.

Technology has made everyone’s life easier – including hackers. Securing your law firm’s digital data is one of the most important business decisions to be made, and then revisited often. Hire an IT expert and ask them to brainstorm all worst-case scenarios before planning to prevent or correct each possibility.

Although the GLBA isn’t necessarily enforceable, your professional ethics are, and security is particularly vital to the long-term success of law practices that handle financial-based activities. Handle your client’s data with care – in the long run, using best practices for secure technology makes your job easier.

At Boss Certified Realtime Reporting, we’ve been providing nationwide court reporting services for trials, depositions, mediations and more since 1995. If you’d like help or more information, you can call us at 954 467 6867 or complete our contact form to let us know how we can assist you.

Virtual Attorney’s Office: Take Your Law Practice Online

Virtual Attorney’s Office: Take Your Law Practice Online on bossreporting.com

The benefits of going virtual

More and more aspects of life are moving into a virtual space – entertainment, education, banking, public records, shopping, and even social lives. The increasing normalcy of conducting life and business online is changing daily routines, redefining the idea of community, and revolutionizing workforces.

The legal industry places great importance on tradition and formality, and as a result, is often slow to adopt changes that involve technology or anything perceived as unconventional.

However, as the world evolves into online spaces, many law firms are seeing the advantages of a virtual practice.

Linking up

The world wide web is making the world both bigger and smaller; information is endless, the audience is vast, but all of it is so easily interconnected. Everyone and everything is online these days.

The global population of Internet users reached an incredible 4 billion as of April 2018 – there is simply no brick and mortar location with that kind of reach.

An online law practice has greater scalability, is more mobile and efficient, and significantly reduces upfront costs and monthly expenses.

Logging in

The American Bar Association’s 2016 Tech Report defines a virtual law firm as having a lack of traditional office space, heavy web-based interactions, minimal in-person client contact, unbundled legal services, and secure client portals.

Although a lack of traditional office space can seem like an intimidating and impractical shift, there are many benefits to adopting such an alternative business model, such as:

  • Scalability: Utilizing virtual space can broaden your business’s horizons. Burton Law Firm is a good case study of a successful online practice. Rather than one brick-and-mortar location, their attorneys work from virtual hubs across the country. Although the firm is based in Ohio, they have attorneys and clients in Washington, D.C., North Carolina, and Kentucky. Their ability to work from anywhere helps attract top talent and is convenient for their clients.
  • Mobility: Practicing law involves a lot of work and requires hours of research, communication, presenting, and planning. Advances in technology like cloud-based services and tablets help keep all aspects of business organized in one central location and allow accessibility anywhere from an airplane to the courtroom, improving efficiency and productivity regardless of where you are.
  • Affordability: Aside from the obvious benefit of avoiding the upfront investment of establishing a brick-and-mortar legal practice, an online practice reduces costs in small ways that add up, such as the ability to go paperless, reduce support staff, and eliminate utility bills.
  • Flexibility: Being able to work from anywhere allows attorneys to innovate and create a better work/life balance. One of the concerns about opening an online practice involves meeting clients. Virtual workspaces have gained popularity in cities across the country. These fully furnished meeting spaces often have receptionists, conference rooms, and quiet spaces to conduct business in a professional setting, so you can work from home when it’s convenient but have a more traditional space as needed.

Powering up

If you’re considering opening a virtual space, make sure you have a solid plan for streamlining client communication and securing information. An organization is key if your business is based online. Carefully research the following options to keep your virtual law practice running smoothly:

  • Cloud computing: Cloud sharing services allow users to instantly store, share, and retrieve documents from any location where they can access the internet. Think of it as a mobile file cabinet with limitless space. Find a secure service that works for you and create a workflow around filing important information.
  • Law practice management software: A secure client portal helps keep client communication organized and has the added benefit of instilling confidence about your professionalism. Exchanging documents, setting appointments, accepting online payments, and sending and receiving messages makes life easier for both you and your clients.
  • Digital records and legal tools: Gone are the days of massive physical law libraries – case law, judgments, and other legal records are available with a few taps on a tablet. Detailed data and investigative tools enable firms to build better cases anywhere and anytime with access to a range of public, proprietary, and behavioral information.

As more businesses transition from storefront to a webpage, support for online professionals continues to grow. From shared workspaces to cloud-based software, productivity is possible from anywhere on the planet. Reach a broader audience, grow without constraints, and deliver top-notch service to your clients through technology with a virtual law practice.

Boss Certified Real-Time Reporting provides accurate, fast, and fair court reporting services for everything from trials and mediations to dispositions and conferences. For more information call us at 954-467-6867, or connect with us online today!

Why Law Firms Should Consider Text Messaging to Communicate

Why Law Firms Should Consider Text Messaging to Communicate on bossreporting.com

The benefits of texting

Clear communication is crucial to all relationships, but it is particularly important in a professional capacity. A fluid exchange of ideas increases productivity, efficiency, and customer satisfaction – three key components that bring ease to any workday.

Although a certain degree of decorum is expected, effectively conveying your intended message should be more important than the medium used for delivery.

And in today’s modern world where convenience reigns supreme, text messaging is becoming more popular as a professional tool – but is it appropriate for a law firm?

The evidence

Statistics show that 81 percent of Americans use text messaging daily, with texts being twice as popular as calls. The reality is that text messaging is easier to manage than direct person-to-person contact; texting is often faster, more discrete, and easier to respond to than a phone call.

Many businesses are using that trend to their advantage, not only to make the customer experience more convenient but also to streamline their own efforts. Good communication is whatever works, right?

Emails often go unread, calls are likely sent to voicemail, but texts are usually seen immediately and are replied to faster than either.

Although it can be seen as a negative versus a positive, exchanging text messages can lend a more casual and personal feel to an exchange. That doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice professionalism – it just gives the illusion of easy access and availability.

As attorney Kendra Stephen told Forbes: “You want to communicate with your clients in a manner they are comfortable with. If your client likes texting, use it. It’s all about keeping your client happy. I would recommend discussing methods of communication in the engagement letter.”

Case in point

Now how would this work in the practice of law? The most obvious answers involve scheduling appointments, issuing updates, and sending reminders about documents that need to be dropped off or signed. Not only are you more likely to receive confirmation but there’s also something about seeing dates, time, and follow-ups in the text that may make a client more likely to remember.

It also creates an easily followed trail of data in case there’s any doubt that the information was shared.

There are also a variety of software programs for professionals that allow texts to be sent and received through business landlines, and that can sync up with appointment scheduling tools to help organize the process.

Another possibility is text message marketing. A 2015 ruling by the Florida Bar decided that attorneys could reach out to prospective clients via SMS within certain parameters such as:

  • Firms must wait 30 days after an accident to send a solicitation
  • Messages must disclose how contact information was obtained
  • Messages must state that it is an advertisement
  • The sender must pay any costs incurred by the recipient as a result of the text
  • Recipient must have the ability to opt-out of future text messages
  • Messages must instruct the recipient to disregard if they already have representation

Laws vary by state, so check with the state bar about possibilities and restrictions if you’re considering a text message marketing campaign.

The verdict

Ultimately, it’s about the client and finding the best way to communicate with them. If they prefer texting to fit their schedule, it’s best to accommodate. Finding success in business – and life – often requires meeting people where they are at and establishing a comfortable relationship through trust and availability.

The trend of communicating through text message is more deeply engrained into our culture by the day, and refusing to utilize that valuable tool may not only be doing your business a disservice, but also the very people you are trying to reach and serve. Text messaging is no longer limited to informal dialog among friends; when used with careful consideration and a focused intention, SMS can help organize your communication efforts and introduce more ease into your business and the lives of your clients.

Boss Certified Real-Time Reporting provides accurate, fast, and fair court reporting services for everything from trials and mediations to dispositions and conferences. For more information call us at 954-467-6867, or connect with us online today!

How Law Firms Can Improve Online Marketing Efforts

How Law Firms Can Improve Online Marketing Efforts on bossreporting.com

7 online marketing statistics law firms need to know

The legal profession has become very competitive. Attracting and keeping clients is as much a part of the job as depositions, trials, and brokering settlements, and online marketing has become an essential component.

Law firms, big and small, must have a marketing plan in place in order to reach clients. So, what can law firms do to create or improve their online marketing efforts?

Here are 7 important marketing statistics that can help guide and influence your strategy:

1.  Attorney searches often start online

Yes, referrals are still one of the most important ways to generate business, but today, over one-third of potential clients start by searching for an attorney online. Having a strong presence via a website, social media, and on search engines is a key to success in this increasingly digital world.

2.  Websites are still the main source of new clients

The focus of marketing efforts may have shifted toward social media, but law firms still generate most new business through their website. Make sure your site is search engine optimized (SEO) with keywords and content that pertain to your firm. The content needs to be relevant to your area of practice and serve as a strong lead generator. It is also absolutely essential that you make it easy for potential clients to contact you. That means including a strong call to action and displaying contact numbers or emails in a prominent place on each page.

3.  31% of people conduct attorney searches via mobile devices

About one-third of all law-related website traffic now comes via mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets. It’s important to ensure that websites are optimized for viewing on mobile devices so that it’s easy to scroll and read all the text on a smaller screen. In many cases, search engines like Google will actually suppress websites that are not optimized for mobile.

4.  The video is becoming more essential to marketing efforts.

A 2017 Cisco Report stated that videos will make up 82% of consumer traffic by the year 2020. The trend has much to do with the increased use of mobile devices. Videos are a quick and efficient way to get your message across. They tend to carry more weight in Facebook’s algorithms, meaning they generate more organic views than text alone.

Videos also increase traffic on search engines like Google by 41%. Law firms must be able to incorporate this medium in order to reach a target audience that is increasingly on the go and has little time to invest in reading lengthy text.

5.  Social media is a powerful tool for increasing awareness and attracting new clients

A couple of statistics: Potential clients spent an average of 16 minutes per hour on social media platforms. A 2017 study of law firms revealed that more than half grew their client base thanks to social media engagement. 45% of traffic to law firm websites comes via LinkedIn.

However, when planning your marketing strategy, it’s important not to forget the “social” aspect of social media. Engagement on any platform hinges on generating conversations, becoming a trusted resource, and providing answers people (potential clients) need. Above all, use social media as a vehicle to drive traffic to your website – where clients can read relevant info and contact you.

6.  Nearly half of law firms attract new clients through lead generation.

An American Bar Association survey indicates that 49% of law firms say their best-performing advertising medium is lead generation services, including pay per lead and online directory services. Lead generation is the process of identifying and cultivating potential customers (clients) by offering something of value that entices them to take an action (e.g., enter an email, make contact, or make a purchase).

The value can take the form of free downloads or exclusive online content. Law firms need to have a strong system for generating leads, whether these efforts are done in-house or through an outside service. Again, an effective website needs to be the hub through which leads are driven, from interest to contact.

7.  Content still rules in online marketing.

Content is still the main source of online traffic and lead generation. However, with so much content, it’s important that you offer something unique that has real value to potential clients. Along with blogs, content can include infographics, white papers, eBooks, podcasts, videos, and webinars.

Online marketing is essential in order for law firms to attract and keep clients in this digital age. Remember these 7 statistics when developing your marketing strategy so that you can make connections that will increase business.

Boss Certified Real-Time Reporting provides court reporting services for everything from trials and mediations to dispositions and conferences. We’re accurate, fast, and in your corner. For more information call us at 954-467-6867, or connect with us online today!