For lawyers, maintaining client confidentiality is paramount. As such, lawyers have always had an obligation to take reasonable steps to ensure that confidential client data remains secure. The good news is that lawyers today have more choices than ever when it comes to secure communication and collaboration with their clients, including docTrackr, a cloud-based service that allows lawyers to securely share documents with clients.
However, secure electronic communications weren’t always readily available. In fact, until recently, email was one of the only viable options, and so, beginning in the late-1990s, bar associations gave email their collective blessing, despite its lack of security. (See, for example: ABA Formal Opinion No. 99-413, N.Y. State 709 (1998), State of Maine Ethics Opinion #195 (2008), Ohio Ethics Opinion No. 99-2 (April 9, 1999), Hawaii Ethics Opinion No. 40 (April 26, 2001), Utah Ethics Opinion No. 00-01 (March 9, 2000), Florida Ethics Opinion No. 00-4 (July 15, 2000), Delaware Ethics Opinion No. 2001-2 (2001), and Virginia Ethics Opinion No. 1791 (December 22, 2003). By doing so, these ethics committees permitted lawyers to use email in their law practices, thus implicitly condoning attorneys’ use of unencrypted electronic communications with their clients. The bar associations did this because, at the time, more secure means of electronic means of communication were not readily available, email use was widespread, and accordingly, refusing to allow lawyers to use email would have been a futile gesture.
Now, 20 years later, the use of email by lawyers is commonplace and most lawyers continue to communicate with clients via email even though there are far more secure means available, including encrypted communication using cloud-based platforms. This is because many lawyers are unaware that communicating with their clients via email is is akin to sending a postcard written in pencil through the post office.
However, those lawyers who understand the risks of email are increasingly seeking more secure options for client communication. Many turn to web-based law practice management platforms with built-in, secure client communications features. But for those lawyers who are not yet ready to take the plunge and commit to a full-fledged law practice management system, one program worth considering is docTrackr.
Using docTrackr, you can securely share documents with clients. This web-based solution encrypts the documents before you send them and allows you to set permissions regarding who can access, view, print, forward, and edit the document. It also sends you notifications when an intended recipient receives and opens a document. The interface is user-friendly and it’s a simple matter to upload a document, set permissions and send it to the intended recipient. And best of all, it’s free for up to 10 documents per month.
Not surprisingly, there are a number of drawbacks. First, docTrackr only supports a limited number of file types: .pdf, .doc(x), .ppt(x), and .xls(x). So if either you or your intended recipient use Apple or other non-Microsoft/Adobe products, then you’re out of luck. Second, it requires that the intended recipient set up an account–but then again, so do most programs of this type. And finally, free accounts are limited to 10 documents per month and most law offices will no doubt exceed that limit fairly quickly.
Of course, there is a paid plan in the works for business users, which is priced at $15 per user/month. But if you think you’ll need the paid plan, you may want to consider a full-fledged law practice management system, since some of the leading ones offer monthly user rates that are only slightly higher but offer you far more for your money. So, in addition to being able to securely share documents, some systems offer the ability to securely share, communicate, and collaborate with clients about documents or events, in addition to providing contact management, billing and invoicing features, calendaring overlaid with workflow project management features, mobile access and more.
So, if you only plan to send a few encrypted documents each month, then docTracker might just be the solution for you. But if think you’ll send more than that and encrypted communication is a priority for you, then you may want to take a look at the different paid web-based platforms developed specifically for lawyers.