Encrypted Client Communication May Be the Wave of the Future

encrypted-communicationsI 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.

For example, VLOTech, Clio, and NetDocuments allow for varying types of encrypted communication with clients. Another online legal platform, NKrypt, is devoted to providing a secure, encrypted email network.

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.

(photo: Anonymous Account)


  1. Avatar Danny Johnson says:

    Very nice forward looking article. Will be interesting to follow legislation regarding encrypted communication.

    Thinking about the technology you mentioned, and if it will continue to improve, I was reminded of what Tim Hooks said on Ilta TV, “The technology will be there, I don’t know how, but it will be there.”

  2. Avatar Mark Cross says:

    “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 are anything but innovative

    Dear Niki,

    I politely disagree with your statement, please check out:

    Best regards,

    Mark Cross
    CEO OpenID.co.uk

  3. Agreed. As technology evolves encrypted communications should become the norm. If we want to enable effective collaboration we should start by using a reliable -and secure- communication mechanism. And email does not seem to be it.


    Daniel Garcia

  4. Niki,
    I believe that you are right about this. However, if this development is going to happen, I wish there were some way to make it more efficient. I’ve already written several times about my problems with “training” my clients to use online portals which allow for encrypted communication. Email is much more seamless. Yet, even if I could get clients to use these systems, how is the universe going to look in 2-3 years with clients having to maintain multiple passwords to log on to multiple systems – one for Lawyer A, one for Lawyer B, one for their bank, etc…Maybe there is some way to create large “shell” systems like Facebook, so at least you could log on to a site one time, and communicate with various connections through that one portal.

    Carolyn Elefant

  5. It will be very difficult to convert clients into using encryption to communicate with a lawyer. You would have to provide technical assistance to your clients in order to do so. Just seems like a tremendous headache.

    If you’re sending that is particularly sensitive, pick up the phone. Or drop the file into a ZIP file with a password. But using PGP isn’t going to work for every emailed client communication.

  6. Avatar Boyd Butler says:

    I absolutely agree that email will have to be encrypted. It can be intercepted and emails can also be sent to the wrong person really easily, (when email addresses get filled in automatically it happens). You also don’t want to be training recipients on how to use sytems that are complicated. In Europe we are seeing health providers and governement agencies having to encrypt emails with personal details. The same will come with solicitors, (lawyers). There is a company, in Canada I believe, called Echoworx that are doing this type of things with lawyers and they have recently established themselves in the UK. I think that secure communication can be made into a USP as well. “Only put your trust in lawyers that guarantee 100%, total secure, and encrypted communications.” I also did a little cartoon based on encrypted communications which is here

    I did this just to back up how to sell the USP….

  7. Sam Glover Sam G. says:

    Encrypted e-mail is a nice idea, and I am all for increased security, but all of the solutions available now are either proprietary or very cumbersome. Both are deal-breakers for encrypted e-mail. When it is open source and easy to use, I will be one of the first on board.

    I think the only really feasible way to get encrypted e-mail will be if the entire e-mail system switches over, and that would probably be 5-10 years away, even if someone were working towards that outcome.

  8. Avatar Roger says:

    Good Post Niki, I have a virtual law firm at illinoisvirtuallaw.com that utilizes encrypted e-mail so that I can communicate with clients. My clients have been extremely happy so far and I have no doubt that this is the wave of the future.

  9. Avatar Ann says:

    When my lawyer and opposing counsel shared private client emails without permission and left them in the file when returned to me, how would encryption have protected me? I understand the necessity but when 2 sleazebag lawyers share client emails with each other, there is a bigger problem.

    Interestingly enough, they taught ethics.

    Palo Alto, CA

Leave a Reply