From fax machines to cloud storage: Protecting valuable client data with secure document sharing

Tarrant County Bar Association safeguards pro bono clients’ data and fights identity theft with Tresorit

Lawyers for the community

As a worrying number of Americans continue to face financial difficulties, pro bono legal services, offered to disadvantaged groups by volunteer attorneys, are of critical importance. According to the US Census Bureau, 12.3% of the US population, equalling 39.7 million people, were living below the poverty line in 2017. In Texas, one in seven people, over 4.2 million Texans, were struck by poverty and many more were struggling to make ends meet in the face of rising costs. The state is also home to 1.5 million veterans, the second highest in the nation after California, with a lot of them living in low-income households.

Tarrant County Bar Association runs two pro bono programmes in the Fort Worth, Texas area, providing much-needed assistance to members of the community who wouldn’t be able to afford legal representation otherwise. Texas Lawyers for Texas Veterans – Tarrant County Chapter (TLTV) offers free legal services and education to veterans and spouses of deceased members of the military through legal clinics and an extensive pro bono attorney network. Since its inception in 2010, the programme has served more than 1,500 veterans, with over 400 attorneys donating 10,000-plus hours of work. In parallel, the association’s community service committee, Tarrant County Volunteer Attorney Services (TVAS), has been giving free legal support to locals in need since 2012.

“Just last year, we had more than 50 attorneys working on our pro bono cases,” says Melissa Sircar, Pro Bono Programs Director at the association. Collaborating with such an extensive network of lawyers remotely, however, is not without its substantial risks. “As a lawyer, you have a legal and ethical obligation to protect your clients’ data. My worst nightmare is that someone hacks into our system and steals our clients’ social security numbers to commit identity theft,” explains Melissa. No wonder. A data breach would have devastating consequences and could jeopardise the association’s entire mission.

High stakes, low resources

Handling and storing highly sensitive data that is worth a great deal on the black market, law firms have long been a natural target for cybercriminals. And the number of attacks keep rising. The American Bar Association’s Techreport 2018 found that 23% of US firms had experienced a data breach, up from 14% in 2016. “I know of small companies you’d never think would be a target that have fallen victim to cyber-crime. And it doesn’t matter if you’re providing pro bono services either,” points out Melissa. Aware of the dangers inherent in email attachments, they resorted to using fax, mail and hand delivery to share documents within the network. “It was slow and impractical. We desperately needed a secure document management solution we could use for sending confidential documents to our volunteers,” the director explains. “The problem was that we are a very small program and most of the solutions were either outside of our price range or they didn’t provide enough storage space.” Then last year she came across Tresorit at the Equal Justice Conference in San Diego, California and decided to give it a go.

Tresorit has completely changed the way we do business in our office. It allows us to share our client data across our network of 100-odd pro bono volunteers in a safe and ethical way. Remote collaboration is a crucial part of what we do and we’ve become more efficient and more secure thanks to Tresorit’s cloud solution. We take advantage of it every day.

Melissa Sircar
Melissa Sircar Pro Bono Programs Director, Tarrant County Bar Association

Legal document management in the cloud

Tresorit’s end-to-end encrypted cloud storage also provides peace of mind as the rate of ransomware attacks reaches epidemic levels in the sector. “I have a great deal of comfort knowing that my client data is safely stored off-site, not on a local server, in a way that it cannot be subject to a ransom,” says Melissa. Even if cyber-criminals manage to get into their system, the information will not be legible without the encryption keys.

Another feature the association greatly benefits from is the admin control offered by Tresorit. As Tarrant County Bar Association’s pro bono programmes rely heavily on remote attorneys, folders containing confidential information are shared with external volunteers on a daily basis. “I really like the fact that I am in total control of who has access to what, for how long and from where. I can also set up different levels of access, for example, an attorney may be able to access a document remotely but will not be able to download it onto their device, which helps us minimise the risk of data breaches. And if needed, I can revoke access from other users any time.”

Adoption of the new technology was also pretty smooth. At first, Melissa faced some reluctance from attorneys with lower IT savvy but she didn’t run into any major issues during implementation. “We explained it to our volunteers why we needed to switch to the cloud and although it was a learning curve for some of our attorneys, the tool has now been adopted by our wider network. We don’t fax anything anymore. In fact, I love Tresorit’s solution so much, I keep recommending it to everyone in my network.”

Interested in learning more about the benefits of Tresorit's legal document management solution for law firms? Check out the following material:

Tarrant County Bar Association

Company

Established in 1904, Tarrant County Bar Association is a voluntary association supporting attorneys, service organisations and the wider local community in Tarrant County, Texas. It runs pro bono programmes dedicated to providing underrepresented, low-income community members with free legal services.

Industry

Legal

Region

US

Size

11-50

THE CHALLENGE

  • Having a legal and ethical duty to protect clients’ privacy

  • Rising cyber threats, including ransomware attacks and identity theft in the sector

  • Working with 100+ attorneys on separate cases across the country in a secure way

  • In need of an easy-to-understand solution that lawyers of varying IT skills feel comfortable with

TRESORIT'S SOLUTION

  • Secure legal document management offering the opportunity to collaborate with external partners who don’t have a Tresorit account

  • Built-in attachment function, which is easy to remember and use

  • User-friendly interface resulting in smooth adoption

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