In the September/October 2011 issue of The Pennsylvania Lawyer, published by the Pennsylvania Bar Association, practicing attorney and technology consultant, Shannon Brown, provides a very thoughtful and informative primer on the "why's and wherefores" of cloud computing. His article offers some important background for attorneys attempting to understand the "alphabet soup" of current cloud computing terminology.
He also outlines why it is important for attorneys to understand some of the risks associated with cloud computing, and how to mitigate those risks to insure compliance with various judicial opinions on the topic. Specifically, he cites Ethics Informal Opinion (2010-060, 1/10/2011) of the PA Bar Association's Committee on Legal Ethics and Professional Responsibility, which states that attorneys may ethically allow client confidential material to be stored 'in the cloud' "… provided the attorney makes reasonable efforts to assure that the material is confidential."
As Brown states, any attorney contemplating a cloud-based storage solution will need to understand what constitutes "reasonable efforts" regarding the confidentiality of data stored. To help with this determination, the author suggests three areas for attorneys to probe carefully before committing to the cloud. They are:
- Data encryption practices adopted by the vendor
- Awareness of the physical storage location of the data itself
- Procedures for disaster recovery of data made available by the vendor
NetDocuments appears to do rather well in all three of these crucial categories.
All documents sent to and from NetDocuments use secure SSL protocols with 128 bit encryption keys, and all documents stored on the NetDocuments servers are fully encrypted. Multiple additional technical and procedural safeguards are in place to insure that your documents are available only to you and to those with whom you choose to share them.
NetDocuments servers are located exclusively in the U.S. for U.S. firms, as well as two redundant datacenters in the UK. All data becomes replicated between the two secure hosting centers, insuring continuity of access. In the event of a disaster at one site, access to the replicated site is instantaneous and transparent to the user.
So, all of you Pennsylvania lawyers out there, rest easy knowing that NetDocuments fully complies with the standards as currently defined by your Committee on Legal Ethics and Professional Responsibility, and as further explicated by a practicing attorney who is also a knowledgeable technology professional.
The cloud can indeed be a dangerous place. Perform your due diligence accordingly.
Post written by Jack Schaller of Eastern Legal Systems (ELS). ELS is one of NetDocuments valued Business Services Partners. Jack is a partner and Director of Client Development and operates out of the firm's Blue Bell, PA office.
Eastern Legal Systems LLC is a regional technology consulting firm specializing in legal billing and accounting, practice management, document management, and network optimization for small to mid-size law firms. Spanning the "Metroliner Corridor" of the Eastern United States seaboard, Eastern Legal Systems serves clients in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Washington, D.C. from offices in those four locations.
Our mission is to add value to each project we initiate for our law firm clients, through our combination of extensive software and training experience, our deep knowledge of the products we support, and our solid legal industry background.