Why do law firms need cybersecurity?

In today’s digital age, law firms handle large volumes of highly sensitive client information. From confidential case details to personal identification and financial data, law firms are a goldmine for cybercriminals. Unfortunately, many law firms still utilize inadequate cybersecurity defenses, leaving them vulnerable to attacks. Law firms that fail to prioritize cybersecurity put their clients’ data and interests at risk. They also face massive financial, legal and reputational damage if breached.

What kinds of data do law firms handle that make them targets?

Law firms handle extremely sensitive client information that is highly valuable to cybercriminals. This includes:

  • Personal identification data like Social Security numbers, driver’s license details, passport information, birth dates, etc.
  • Financial information such as bank account and credit card numbers, income details, transaction records, etc.
  • Medical records containing private health details and insurance data.
  • Confidential case information including legal strategies, weaknesses, evidence, etc.
  • Trade secrets such as intellectual property, R&D, prototypes, etc.
  • HR data with employee records, payroll information, background checks, etc.

With the variety of sensitive client data they handle, law firms are irresistible targets for cybercriminals. Hacking a law firm can provide access to thousands of people’s valuable personal and financial information.

What are the different cyber threats facing law firms?

Law firms face a diverse range of cyber threats including:

  • Phishing – Fraudulent emails aimed at stealing login credentials, credit card details, sensitive files, etc.
  • Ransomware – Malware that locks systems until a ransom is paid to regain access.
  • Data theft – Breaches where client data is stolen and sold online.
  • DDoS attacks – Overwhelming systems by flooding them with fake traffic.
  • Insider threats – Data theft or security sabotage by employees.
  • Wire fraud – Intercepting and diverting client transfer funds.
  • Social engineering – Manipulating staff to hand over access or sensitive data.

Law firms are directly targeted with customized social engineering tactics and malware aimed at compromising their systems. Their client data is also a top target for data thieves selling records online. Without robust defenses, law firms make easy prey.

What are some real-world examples of law firm cyber attacks?

Several major law firms have fallen victim to costly cyber attacks in recent years:

  • In 2020, elite New York law firm Grubman Shire Meiselas & Sacks was hit with a $21 million ransomware attack that also leaked sensitive celebrity files when they refused to pay.
  • Panamanian firm Morgan & Morgan suffered a major data breach in 2019 exposing terabytes of client files and emails online.
  • Australian firm Craddock Murray Neumann was hacked in 2016 resulting in the theft of hundreds of GBs of client data.
  • Kansas City-based Shamberg Johnson & Bergman had an attacker intercept $440,000 in client funds through a business email compromise scam.
  • Connecticut firm Rome McGuigan P.C. was hacked in 2020 with attackers demanding $325,000 in Bitcoin.

These examples illustrate how vulnerable many law firms are and the massive fallout when cybersecurity fails. Without proper safeguards in place, any law firm is a potential target.

What are the consequences of a law firm cybersecurity breach?

The impact of a successful cyber attack on a law firm can be severe, including:

  • Financial loss – Ransomware or wire transfer fraud can directly cost firms millions in stolen funds.
  • Client lawsuits – Clients can sue for failure to protect their sensitive data as contracted.
  • Reputation damage – Breaches erode client trust and hurt a firm’s brand as secure and reliable.
  • Loss of competitive advantage – Stolen IP, strategy details and other intel can compromise a firm’s edge.
  • Disruption – Attacks that impede access to files, email and systems grind work to a halt.
  • Regulatory penalties – Law firms can face heavy fines for violations of privacy laws.

In addition to immediate costs, cyber attacks have long term impacts from loss of current and future business due to reputational damage. Lack of cybersecurity can seriously jeopardize the future of a law firm.

What cybersecurity best practices should law firms adopt?

To manage cyber risks, law firms should implement measures like:

  • Access controls – Limit access to sensitive data to only those who absolutely require it.
  • Data encryption – Encrypt firm and client data to make it unusable if stolen.
  • Incident response plan – Have a plan and team in place to rapidly respond to and contain a breach.
  • Employee training – Institute mandatory cybersecurity awareness training for all employees.
  • Network segmentation – Isolate and secure systems handling highly sensitive data.
  • Vulnerability management – Actively scan for system weaknesses and patch rapidly.
  • Multifactor authentication – Require factors like biometrics or tokens to verify staff accounts.
  • Firewall/IPS – Use advanced firewalls and intrusion prevention for real-time threat defense.
  • Backups – Maintain air-gapped backups to recover encrypted or lost data.
  • Email security – Deploy protections like DMARC and spam filtering to block malicious email.

Additionally, law firms should conduct regular risk assessments, pen testing and audits to identify and address any gaps. Cyber insurance can also help offset costs of an attack. However, firms must avoid complacency and continue strengthening defenses.

How can law firms select the right cybersecurity products and services?

When evaluating cybersecurity solutions, law firms should assess factors like:

  • Specific protection against sophisticated threats like ransomware and business email compromise scams.
  • Integration of technologies to provide layered defenses across endpoints, network, email, cloud apps, etc.
  • Platform manageability with a unified dashboard.
  • Secure remote access capabilities to enable remote work.
  • Data loss prevention and advanced threat detection.
  • Compliance with regulations like HIPAA that apply to client data.
  • Customer support responsiveness and experience catering to legal firms specifically.
  • Third-party technology audit scores demonstrating effectiveness.
  • Vendor reputation and financial stability for long term partnership.

Law firms should avoid choosing cybersecurity products based on cost alone. The severity of potential breach fallout necessitates investing in robust, reputable protection.

What steps can law firms take to check service provider security?

As law firms are increasingly reliant on digital service providers, they need assurance these vendors are cyber secure. Actions law firms can take include:

  • Review provider security policies, procedures and technologies.
  • Require providers to complete security questionnaires.
  • Request results of third-party security audits and risk assessments.
  • Include security stipulations in service contracts like mandatory training, encryption and breach notification.
  • Ask for references or client examples demonstrating other legal firms’ satisfaction.
  • Conduct site visits to inspect provider data centers and security firsthand if possible.
  • Continuously monitor provider relationships for new risks.

Vetting provider security reduces the chances of a breach through a third-party that still damages the law firm. Firms should be prepared to switch providers if security guarantees cannot be met.

What legal tech and cyber services are available for law firms?

Law firms can enhance security and efficiency by implementing legal tech solutions like:

  • Document automation – Automatically generate legal documents with accurate data populated.
  • Contract management – Digitally manage contract workflows from creation to approval.
  • eDiscovery – Use AI to rapidly find relevant information for cases from large document sets.
  • Secure online portals – Provide clients access to case files through secure online portals with access controls.
  • Digital signatures – Implement certified digital signature technology compliant with standards and regulations.
  • Data loss prevention – Deploy intelligent DLP to automatically identify and secure confidential data across networks.
  • Identity and access management – Manage user access and authentication via central directory services.

Specialized legal IT and cybersecurity service providers can offer platforms and support tailored for law firms. Services like breach detection, incident response and forensic investigations can quickly mitigate damages when a cyber attack occurs.


Law firms cannot afford to overlook cybersecurity given the extremely sensitive client data they manage. Robust cybersecurity measures are now mandatory to safely deliver legal services and avoid catastrophic fallout. By implementing best practices and utilizing legal focused IT and cybersecurity services, law firms can protect their client data, reputation and financial stability. In the digital age, cyber secure operations are fundamental to the practice of law.