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Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Secure File Transfer for Law Firm Attorneys, Counsels, and Clients

Summary: Lawyers cannot afford to wait for FTP/SFTP access setup to send large files securely to clients. Accellion meets law firms secure file transfer needs while keeping both attorneys and IT happy.


There are many reasons that people come to Accellion for their secure file transfer needs. Because each industry has its own quirks and specific requirements that may not be obvious to the less nimble vendors, Accellion has built up experiences and insight for a wide spectrum of industry verticals.

The legal space is one of those verticals where Accellion is seeing quite a bit of adoption of our solution.

How does secure file transfer fit into law firms?

It is somewhat of a no-brainer to say that law firms deal in sensitive documents. Traditionally, these documents are in physical forms. With the digitization of the legal practice and proliferation of email as a common communication tool, the focus has shifted to how to best transmit the same information electronically.

So far so good.

What has changed with the digital age, however, is one of expectation. In the old days, the physical transfer of documents could take days, and it's not just accepted, but expected. However, today, when it takes more than 10 seconds for the email attachment to get over to the client, somebody (like those in IT) will have to pay. With billable hours and productivity a major measurement for most attorneys, any delay is no longer acceptable.

Email attachment with its size limits (see my posting on No Pain is Gain - What email focused VAR partners are doing for email size limits) can cause issues on two fronts. One is the internal limit where an attorney would complain that he cannot attach a critical document to send over to the client outside because IT is blocking it. Conversely, some IT departments may have intentionally set no size limit to avoid internal complaint, but the recipient's email infrastructure can have its own incoming email and attachment size limits. So, the same attorney may very well complain about the inability to get that critical document to the client because it is being rejected by the client's email system.

So, it's no surprise that law firms look for an alternative means to transfer digital files and FTP is a typical technology these firms try. The IT team at a law firm regularly has to fulfill requests to provide "FTP" access. FTP (file transfer protocol) is the conventional technical solution for sharing large files. While it does the job well enough, it is a major no-no for law practices because FTP is highly insecure (FTP's security hole is well documented, see my posting FTP (In) Security in the Google Age on the latest twist on the FTP security issues.) So, instead, the IT department has to set up Secure FTP (SFTP) access. And, the problem for SFTP is that its setup and administration are much more cumbersome and time consuming as a result of its additional security components.

And, let's not forget that, in the meantime, the less experienced and anxious legal types are breathing down IT's neck and wondering aloud why it takes so long since sending a file via email takes no more than one click!

Oh, right. Have I mentioned the fact that attorneys, depending on what transaction they are working on, may request "FTP" access any time of the day and any day of the week? Pity be the lone IT support dude on that 1am-9am New Year's Eve watch.

What we are seeing more and more of are proactive IT departments in law firms coming to the realization that bulking up the support infrastructure for these types of ad hoc file transfers is a game that IT can never win. Instead, the strategic insight points to giving users like attorneys and paralegals the ability to control their own secure file transfer process. This not only gets the "SFTP setup" monkey off IT's back, it also makes attorneys happier because their billable hours and client transaction destiny are no longer controlled by IT.

Talk about a win-win solution.

Typical is what Foley & Mansfield, a national law firm, found out. As Adam Pugh, Foley & Mansfield's Director of Information Services & Technology said, "We were looking for a self contained and easy to use secure electronic file transfer solution... our users, other counsel, and clients are busy people... Now, we can send and receive very large files within minutes."

And, the result? Pugh added "since the [Accellion] SFTA deployment, we have been receiving compliments from users inside and outside the firm about our enhanced secure file transfer capability for its ease of use and the time it saves."

Read more about Foley & Mansfield's perspective here.

So, the question for law firms is not whether to move away from SFTP/FTP, but whether Accellion Courier SFTA is the right choice for you. On this point, just like picking an attorney with the right kind of experiences and knowledge for your legal counsel, you should retain Accellion as your secure file transfer counsel because we have been there and done that many times over.



Anonymous said...

no one cares about your blog

ACA Guy said...

Hahahah! That is not exactly true. You read it! YFJ - ACA Guy

ACA Guy said...

Check out the Accellion SFTA law firm installation coverage at LTN (Law Technology news):

Pretty cool, I thought.