find the latest legal job
Corporate Counsel and Company Secretary
Category: Generalists - In House | Location: Newcastle, Maitland & Hunter NSW
· Highly-respected, innovative and entrepreneurial Not-for-Profit · Competency based Board
View details
Chief Counsel and Company Secretary
Category: Generalists - In House | Location: Newcastle, Maitland & Hunter NSW
· Dynamic, high growth organisation · ASX listed market leader
View details
In-house Projects Lawyer | Renewables / Solar | 2-5 Years PQE
Category: Generalists - In House | Location: All Australia
· Help design the future · NASDAQ Listed
View details
Corporate Lawyer
Category: Generalists - In House | Location: Melbourne CBD & Inner Suburbs Melbourne VIC
· 12 months fixed term opportunity
View details
Property lawyer - Melbourne
Category: Property Law | Location: Melbourne CBD & Inner Suburbs Melbourne VIC
· Impressive client list, national firm · Well-led and high-performing team
View details
Client not-so confidential

Client not-so confidential

A survey of Australia’s largest law firms has shown that client information can be accessed easily by most staff.

The law firm risk management company IntApp has released a survey of 80 risk professionals from 30 of Australia’s largest firms.

The survey, which canvassed risk responsibility, confidentiality and compliance, found that two-thirds of respondents indicated that information about clients is openly accessible to all staff within the firm.

“I am surprised by that figure,” said Andrew Fisher (pictured), Clayton Utz’s national manager of technology/infrastructure services when speaking to Lawyers Weekly about the survey. “We have very stringent rules about who can and can’t access client information.”

Fisher said that Clayton Utz didn’t participate in the survey.

All published survey responses were confidential, with one participant citing “strict protocols, separation barriers, locking-down information, physical separation of teams, printing restrictions” as steps taken by his/her firm to ensure client confidentiality is maintained.

Despite such measures being mentioned by survey participants to protect client confidentiality, the survey found that most respondents did not know how much their firm invests in risk management. One respondent said their firm spends less than one percent (0.5%) of turnover on risk management.

Clayton Utz has three dedicated risk management staff. Fisher declined to say how much his firm spends on risk management, but indicated that large law firms such as Clayton Utz would only be increasing risk management spend and staff in the future.

“We are increasingly being asked by our clients to be ISO 27001 certified and that hasn’t been something we have been asked for in the past,” said Fisher.

He said his firm is working towards being compliant with ISO 27001standards, which brings information security under the direct auspices of management control.

Currently, Clayton Utz, like many firms, leaves control of access to client documents under the supervision of the relevant client relationship partner or partner-in-charge of a matter.

“The partner can say, ‘well I only want  junior lawyers to have access to certain information,  but I want some senior associates to have access to half the documents, etc’.

“We have in place extensive granular protection procedures right down to the user level.”

Avoiding conflict
Survey respondents cited commercial conflicts of interest and regulatory requirements as two key areas of concern that require the implementation of information barriers.

Despite the high proportion of respondents indicating that client information is easily available, most firms indicated that improved processes and additional training have been implemented in a bid to better preserve client confidentiality.

“We’ve added additional training and are looking at ways of improving how files are managed by fee earners to make sure files are secured electronically,” said one respondent.

At Clayton Utz, the identification of potential conflicts is run through a dedicated set of computer-checking mechanisms.

“We will also send an email around to find out if any partners are working on restricted matters that we should know about and use a number of provisions to avoid conflicts,” said Fisher.

The IntApp survey also found that respondents expect external audits to increase in parallel with the increased level of client expectations, with half of the respondents indicating that their firm has been subject to an external information security audit.

Like this story? Read more:

QLS condemns actions of disgraced lawyer as ‘stain on the profession’

NSW proposes big justice reforms to target risk of reoffending

The legal budget breakdown 2017

Client not-so confidential
lawyersweekly logo
Promoted content
Recommended by Spike Native Network
more from lawyers weekly
Warning
Aug 23 2017
NT Law Society sounds alarm on mandatory sentencing
The Law Society Northern Territory has issued a warning over mandatory sentencing, saying it hasn’...
Unite
Aug 22 2017
Professionals unite in support of marriage equality
The presidents of representative bodies for solicitors, barristers and doctors in NSW have come toge...
Aug 21 2017
Is your firm on the right track for gig economy gains?
Promoted by The way we do business, where we work, how we engage with workers, even how we take a...
APPOINTMENTS
Allens managing partner Richard Spurio, image courtesy Allens' website
Jun 21 2017
Promo season at Allens
A group of lawyers at Allens have received promotions across its PNG and Australian offices. ...
May 11 2017
Partner exits for in-house role
A Victorian lawyer has left the partnership of a national firm to start a new gig with state governm...
Esteban Gomez
May 11 2017
National firm recruits ‘major asset’
A national law firm has announced it has appointed a new corporate partner who brings over 15 years'...
opinion
Nicole Rich
May 16 2017
Access to justice for young transgender Australians
Reform is looming for the process that young transgender Australians and their families must current...
Geoff Roberson
May 11 2017
The lighter side of the law: when law and comedy collide
On the face of it, there doesn’t seem to be much that is amusing about the law, writes Geoff Rober...
Help
May 10 2017
Advocate’s immunity – without fear or without favour but not both
On 29 March 2017, the High Court handed down its decision in David Kendirjian v Eugene Lepore & ...