The Hidden Dangers Of Everyday File Storage For Legal Professionals: What Are You Risking?

IR Global


IR Global is a multi-disciplinary professional services network that provides legal, accountancy and financial advice to both companies and individuals around the world. Our membership consists of the highest quality boutique and mid-sized firms who service the mid-market. Firms which are focused on partner led, personal service and have extensive cross border experience.
Law firms face heightened cybersecurity risks with generic cloud storage services like Dropbox and Box, ill-equipped for legal-specific needs.
UK Technology
To print this article, all you need is to be registered or login on

You may not be thinking about your file storage being a cybersecurity risk, but it most definitely is. With cybersecurity attacks on the rise and law firms being a prime target because of the large amounts of sensitive client data they maintain, the stakes for proper file management and security in the legal sector have never been higher. The importance of choosing the right cloud storage service cannot be overstated and must be taken seriously. That threat is compounded by the increasing frequency of security incidents involving popular platforms like Dropbox and Box, which underscores a dire need for immediate action and strategic planning by law firms.

Unfortunately, many lawyers feel unequipped to evaluate cloud applications due to their unfamiliarity with the benefits, risks, and overall capabilities — to be sure, the majority of legal professionals were never taught about cloud technology in law school. However, there are three key areas that every lawyer can explore when given the opportunity to adopt a new tool: cost, governance abilities, document organization.

In this article we explore each of these topics and how they relate to commercial file storage created for everyday use vs. niche options built specifically for legal professionals.

1. Cost of Operation: Paying the Price for "Free"

Some generic cloud applications built for a wide range of professionals often boast an attractive price tag:free.Most commercial applications offer free options with limited capabilities and, at face value, seem sufficient for a small or medium law firm. Unfortunately, 'free' comes with a few additional costs in terms of security risk and productivity.

The allure of "free" plans by mainstream cloud services such as Box and Dropbox is undeniable. However, recent incidents, including a notable 2024 breach of sensitive data from Dropbox, reveal the high cost of free services. These platforms, while seemingly cost-effective upfront, lack robust encryption and strict compliance measures essential for legal operations. Their so-called "freemium" models, far from being economical, pose severe security threats that can lead to substantial financial and reputational damage for law firms.

The "freemium" options offered by commercial file storage providers like Dropbox or Box do not provide the data ownership, compliance, or sometimes even encryption and back up features that are necessary for legal work. These hidden costs to a firm's security posture hardly ever justify the use of a freemium option.

On the other hand, platforms built specifically for legal work may require per-user costs up front, but certainly provide the task automation, encryption, governance, and compliance features specific to legal workflows that in-turn increase productivity and decrease risk, leading to more revenue for firms.

To make matters even worse, the free plans almost always lack key features that are needed by lawyers, which means firms end up investing a lot more in monthly fees for simple file storage or sharing than the cost of safer alternatives that are designed specifically to meet the more robust document workflow and security needs of lawyers.

2. Governance: A Weak Link in Data Security

Effective governance is the backbone of legal data security and protection from threats. Perhaps the most important feature of any data storage option for a law firm is its ability to govern and securely maintain documents, because while even adequate governance makes it easy to locate content quickly (thus increasing productivity), poor document governance poses increased risk to both firms and their clients as mismanagement of content makes it easy for information to fall into the wrong hands.

The lack of specialized governance tools in generalist cloud services like Box has led to alarming lapses in data privacy, highlighted by a recent critical outage security breach that compromised access to confidential client information.

Because not all threats come from outside, document management systems for law firms provide comprehensive governance tools including robust file encryption, easy to apply individual document profiling restrictions, and ethical walls management. They also give you the added extra support of threat detection, audit trails, and stringent data loss prevention measures without having to hire cybersecurity experts in-house. These are indispensable tools for both preventing unauthorized access and ensuring that sensitive client information is shielded from both external threats and internal vulnerabilities.

Additionally, storage options built for automating legal workflows offer tools that make it simple to keep documents in your system of record. These tools could include in-depth document profiling, ethical walls management, native extranets, and data loss prevention to restrict file downloads and other actions.

While commercial grade options may offer some of these features, they are built with user flexibility in mind and offer numerous loopholes to bypass their governance protocols. With any system you select, it's important to ask yourself: if someone were to be let go today and we had this system in place, could I have full confidence they would not have access to any client files — whether on their machine or in the cloud?

3. Legal Document Organization: Increased Efficiency and Reduced Exposure

Not only are these solutions putting your data at risk. They're also affecting your ability to get your work done quickly without disrupting your workflows, because they were designed for file sharing and not full legal document management. A 2023 survey by Clio showed a disturbing trend: lawyers spend only about 30% of their workday on billable tasks — with another survey noting that 48% of a lawyer's time is spent on a mix of administrative and personal education tasks.

This lack of billable time can lead to major losses in revenue, as we detailed in our recent article, Why Firms Are Missing Out on More Than $3.6 Million in Yearly Revenue — and How to Fix it.

A lot of that wasted time is because solutions are not meant to handle complex legal document workflows, requiring extra moving of files and lots of uploads and downloads, creating a chaos of file copies spread across multiple systems.

This is why as firms search for new technology it is critical they find solutions that can automate their most tedious tasks like generating and filing legal documents and emails to their storage system. Commercial storage options simply do not offer the automation features that remove these tedious tasks and make it easier for lawyers to keep up with their immense workload. In contrast, systems built with legal work in mind like NetDocuments automate filing and other tedious tasks with built-in task management and connections to email systems, Microsoft Office, time and billing tools, and more.

In contrast, legal-specific document management systems like NetDocuments are designed specifically for the way lawyers work — to automate processes, link to your other legal software tools, and provide secure document handling — significantly reducing the risk of exposure while enhancing productivity and improving focusing on client service.

Invest in the Right File Storage Technology

We get it. Small and medium firms are doing their best to operate at the lowest cost possible. But ask yourself: what is my lost productivity costing me and what risk is it posing to my clients?

Between spending time ensuring your security tools and protocols are up-to-date, worrying over information governance, and muddling your way through poor document organization, the time you have to manage business affairs, attract new clients, and even practice law is being drained while your client's information is certainly at risk.

Tools like NetDocuments provide the security, flexibility, and automation that firms like yours need. With industry-leading security that's as simple to manage as it is powerful, task automation in all the right places, and the same anywhere, any device access you expect from cloud software.

While all cloud technology is helpful to some degree, only the right cloud application can help you transform your documents into an unstoppable engine for collaboration, productivity, growth, and inspired work.

Given the number of recent troubling incidents with consumer file storage services, we urge all legal professionals to reconsider their current solutions. To learn more about the risks software like Dropbox and Box pose to your firm, and what questions you should be asking, download our guide Dropbox and Box for Lawyers: What Are You Risking?

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

See More Popular Content From

Mondaq uses cookies on this website. By using our website you agree to our use of cookies as set out in our Privacy Policy.

Learn More