Many attorneys, especially solo attorneys, use Dropbox to run a paperless law office.

Many skeptics and critics, however, contend that cloud storage/file sync is not safe.

Whether you use Dropbox, or are considering using it, here are some ways to enhance data security with Dropbox.

Save previous versions with the packrat option

Dropbox automatically saves previous versions of files for 30 days. If you purchase the packrat option ($39.00) Dropbox will keep previous versions of your files indefinitely.

Admittedly, there is a very strong likelihood that you would only need to access a previous version within hours, if not days. At the same time, computers have been to known to do strange things. Maybe a litigation file stays dormant for over 30 days and you need an old version of a file. For $39.00 a year, I think it is absolutely worth the price.

You should still use multiple backups, but you might as well make the most out of all of them. To enable the packrat option, just login into your account, go to settings, and click on the packrat add-on.

Turn on two-step verification

Whether you keep your client files in the cloud, or in your office, there will always be security concerns with client data. If you still think the mysterious cloud operates like an open bank vault, maybe two-step verification will help.

Two-step verification (surprisingly) involves two steps. One, you have to enter your username and password. Two, Dropbox will send a 6 digit code to a phone of your choosing. You have to enter that code in order to access your account. In other words, you need your username, password, and access to your linked phone.

If you wish, you can click on “trust this computer” and Dropbox will not ask for a security code again. Frankly, I don’t know why you would click that, as it defeats the purpose of two-step authentication.

The bottom line is that it adds a powerful extra layer of protection. I’m sure there is a hacker who could break it, but it makes it very difficult for anyone to hack into your account through a browser interface unless they have your mobile phone.

Reduce security risks with selective sync

Along with two-step verification, you can also use selective sync to increase the security of data. Selective sync allows you to choose which files are synced on a certain device.

For example, if you have a desktop at your office and a laptop for working out of the office. You can choose to only sync active files, or even just 1-2 files, on your laptop. In the event your laptop is stolen, misplaced, or compromised, the amount of client data is considerably smaller.

For some attorneys, this may not be a manageable option. I know a fair number of litigation attorneys reference and regularly access notes and research from old cases. However, you could still leave that information in Dropbox—but only access it through the web interface if needed.

Kick out co-counsel when a case is closed

Dropbox makes it very easy to share files with co-counsel. It’s also easy to forget to kick out your co-counsel when the case is over.

I run everything at my firm, so I’m one responsible for closing files. I created a nifty checklist to make sure everything gets done, and kicking co-counsel out of the shared folder is on the checklist. When you kick them out, you can still allow them to keep a copy of the folder, but they no longer have access to the “live” folder.

There’s always the chance your co-counsel will accidentally put something in the folder when the case is over. Or maybe when they close a file, they delete the folder—which would delete your copy as well. If you have redundant backups, it would not be an issue. But there’s no reason to take that chance. When the case is over, so is co-counsel’s opportunity to access the file.

Other tips and tricks?

There are plenty of other ways to make the most of Dropbox. What are some of your favorite tricks and tips?



  1. Sam Glover says:

    Thanks for reminding me about two-step verification. I’ve got it turned on for LastPass and my Google Accounts, but I somehow overlooked Dropbox.

  2. Greg Coughlin says:

    I hadn’t given much thought to the 2-step verification process until you mentioned it. That is definitely an added security protocol by Dropbox. However, in our office we have integrated Dropbox with GroupDocs to annotate our reports and sign the PDFs on the go while storing the files on Dropbox. It works pretty well and this 2-step verification will make it better. Thanks!

  3. Phil Rhodes says:

    Check out Spider Oak, which seems to have a more secure, more private process for storing your data in the cloud. I’m going to give it a trial run. I use Syncplicity now, and I have for almost 5 years now, to share files on 3 primary computers, and selected files with 3 independent contractors.

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