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Security Breaches and Your Small Legal Practice: Do you think that just because you are a small business that you are immune from security and identity theft breaches or from claims by clients who believe you didn’t take reasonable precautions to protect their personal data? I’m sure you don’t, but …

Do you have a laptop or desktop computer with client files? Is it encrypted and password protected? Do you ever carry personal files in your car – and leave them there while you walk away? Do you have any files, paper or digital, with personal data that ever leave your sight and control? Do you ever send faxes or email messages with personal data on the documents – and do you (or your legal assistants) double check, triple check the recipient phone number or the email address? Do you always confirm receipt of the document by the appropriate party? Do you take your outgoing mail to the Post Office or is your mail ever delivered to a location that others have access to? Do you spend more time and tech-staff money on filtering spam from “Nigerian” scam artists than on other equally, or more, vulnerable privacy and security weak points in your business and home? Do you dispose of your old cell phone responsibly?

You don’t have to get paranoid but just use common sense. Learn from other people’s mistakes. Keep up with identity theft and security and privacy breach news. It’s not hard. Stories about data theft are over the newspapers, blogs, and official web sites. Take basic steps to protect your clients’ data the same way you would to protect your own – and maybe even more. Remember the golden rule, i.e. do not do unto others as you would not have them do unto you, so treat your clients’ personal data the way you would want them and everyone else to treat yours. And every time you read about a data security breach, your first thought should be, “that could be me and if it had been, could I have prevented it and what steps would I take to recover from it?”

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