Google Drive for Lawyers – What You Need to Know.
Considering Google Drive to Save Money for Your Law Firm? Not So Fast
Google Drive is a cloud based document and file storage system provided by Google. As the undisputed leader of the Internet, it’s easy to see why a law firm would consider using it for file storage and sharing. With free and paid accounts, Google Drive provides not just ample space, but it also provides people with the ability to collaborate with others and share files. What about Google Drive for Lawyers?
Is Google Drive Appropriate for Law Firm Use?
Like many cloud options for storing files, sharing files, and collaboration, one of the biggest selling points is cost. Through GSuite, law firms can receive 30 gigs of storage for $5 per user per month. Law firms can get unlimited cloud storage or 1 terabyte per user if the firm has less than five users for $10 per user per month. There’s a $25 per user per month plan, but if your firm has less than five users, each person would only get 1 terabyte of space. It does, of course, have other features that we will touch on soon.
When it comes to Google Drive for Lawyers, the real question is whether Google Drive, at any price level, is appropriate for law firm use. While all account levels provide users with shared calendars, access to Google Docs and Spreadsheets, Google drive does not have the security, matter-centricity or robust document management functionality that most law firms require.
Data Security in Consumer-grade Cloud Storage
As a law firm, you’re dealing with sensitive client information, an important factor when evaluating Google Drive for Lawyers. Family law or bankruptcy law firms may have tax records, social security numbers, and other important information. Personal injury and med mal firms could have medical records, authorizations, and social security numbers. Ask yourself this: if you were a client, would you want your confidential information stored on a cloud that, while good, is not necessarily meant to store confidential information?
Consider this: how many people do you know who have and use their Google Drive account? Anyone who has a Gmail account (or who uses GSuite) has a Google Drive account. That’s standard knowledge and it could be the first place hackers will likely try to go to login and obtain your data or hold it hostage. At its basic level, all it takes is figuring out a user’s login email and password.
It’s important to keep in mind that Google Drive for Lawyers isn’t just about security. It’s about making a cost-effective decision for your law firm while adhering to ethics surrounding cloud-based document sharing and storage.
Examining Ethical Obligations
Lawyers are special, and so is their data.
In recent legal ethics opinions, the general consensus is that lawyers should use the standard of reasonable care. In some states, like California, lawyers are advised to weigh the data’s sensitivity and what could happen to the client if the information were inadvertently accessed. The State of Alabama expects lawyers to stay on top of best practices to safeguard sensitive client information. Florida states that lawyers must make reasonable attempts to guard against potential attempts of a breach of data.
An Organizational Nightmare in the Making
When evaluating cloud document storage solutions, such as Google Drive for Lawyers , it’s also important to think about organization. As helpful as Google Drive can be to help lawyers access files when they’re out of the office (and for lawyers who have a virtual office), it can get messy…fast. Without predetermined guidelines on how files should be organized, law firms that rely on Google Drive can end up with a giant problem. Considerations for organization include how client files will be stored (by last name, by case number, or by some other indicator), how documents should be named, whether documents should be downloaded to hard drives, when all files should be uploaded to the drive, and who will ultimately be responsible for the organizational side of using the system.