I predict that within approximately 2-3 years, lawyers in most jurisdictions will communicate and collaborate with their clients using some type of an encrypted network.
This will occur as a result of the enactment of laws to protect consumer data, and because of the inherent flexibility of emerging legal technologies.
New laws and regulations
A number of states, including Massachusetts and Nevada, have passed laws or regulations which require that certain types of confidential data be sent electronically only via encrypted communications. More laws of this nature will most certainly follow both at the state and federal level.
I predict that these laws, most of which currently apply primarily to financial institutions, will ultimately incorporate some of the types of client information contained in attorney-client communications, in large part because of rising concerns due to recent large-scale data disclosures.
In fact, this type of data breach is one of the primary reservations expressed by lawyers regarding cloud computing.
However, attorneys are reluctant to embrace emerging technologies and will only use encrypted communications if required to or if the incorporation of this type of communication into existing systems is easily accomplished.
New laws coupled with the inherent flexibility of cloud computing will result in the use of encrypted communications as the norm in the legal profession.
Emerging legal technologies
As aptly noted by Seth Godin in his recent blog post, desktop software is an antiquated concept, and its developers are anything but innovative. Cloud computing is the wave of the future, and all types of software, including legal platforms, will eventually be offered as an online service.
Developers for online legal platforms start from the ground up when developing their products. They have a flexibility that is unavailable to the desktop developers, who are more concerned with tweaking an existing product in a cost effective manner rather than truly innovating.
Online platforms developers have the ability to respond to the current needs and concerns of their clients in a way that desktop developers simply cannot. Online platforms can be quickly and easily modified to incorporate new features, such as encrypted communication, into the online platforms as the need arises. In fact, a number of platforms have already begun to do so.
Encrypted communications with clients is the wave of the future and web-based legal technology providers, many of whom already provide some form of encrypted client communication, will lead the way.