Law firm's cryptic correspondence

Law firm's cryptic correspondence

By Siobhan Chapman

Australasian law firm Phillips Fox, which prides itself on using technology to deliver legal services, has tightened the bolts on its legal correspondence with an encryption tool for both internal and external email.

In an age where most legal professionals rely on a disclaimer at the bottom of email communications asking the recipient to delete or ignore the message if it falls into the wrong hands, as a measure to protect themselves and their clients, Phillips Fox were looking to offer more assurance.

Phillips Fox has signed a contract to deploy a secure e-Messaging and encryption software across its seven offices in Australia and New Zealand. The legal firm has chosen an e-Communications security solution from AXS-One, called Zixmail.

AXS-One claim the implementation would allow the firm to secure electronic communications, verify electronic transactions, and protect against misdirected emails that can lead to inadvertent leaking of information.

"When you consider the implications of such a breach of security – the possibility of financial loss, loss of public confidence and image, legal liability and breakdown of 'duty of care' and breach of service level agreements – the need for secure e-Messaging is an important issue for any legal services firm," said Shane Martin, information services director of Phillips Fox.

"There is an issue of protecting what can be private from a legal perspective. A lot of our clients asked about working via email, but were concerned about the level of security around that medium," he said. "The encryption gives us something to on sell as part of out legal offering".

According to Mr Martin, one of the factors that made AXS One's offering attractive over other vendors' offerings is the scalability of the product. Phillips Fox can offer the service to its clients, "without the clients needing to do anything at their end other than access Internet".

If a client wanted to go further than that, Phillips Fox have entered an agreement with AXS One allowing them to provide Zixmail to its clients.

"The main thing the product offers is a sliding scale in terms of level of security you can provide. You can take it to a higher level without a whole lot of effort," Mr Martin said.

Another factor that was important in the selection process is at what point of the communication the encryption takes place. Phillips Fox will run the AXS-One product in conjunction with a Microsoft Exchange Outlook system at the STMP gateway to deliver desktop and enterprise level encryption of email messages and attachments.

"If it happens further along the food chain, a small risk is opened up," he said.

The legal firm purchased 100 user license agreement but, according to Mr Martin, the license is structured in such a way that these 100 users vary across the firm.

"Some lawyers will use it all the time with all their clients and others may only use it once in a while for a particular case, depending on the client's wishes," he said.

Phillips Fox expect to have completed the roll out before end of this calendar year. Mr Martin could not disclose the financial details of the deal.

Craig Neyle, general manager at AXS-One said: "Companies should be taking greater steps, beyond disclaimers and firewalls, to protect their electronic communications."

"Legislation has already been enacted in the USA covering electronic communications and, as we’re seeing there, secure messaging that offers authentication, proof of delivery, signature verification and auditability go a long way towards corporations meeting e-security compliance requirements," said Neyle.

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