A Bring Your Own Device Policy for Your Firm

Giving Lawyers the Ability to Choose Their Mobile Technology

Giving Lawyers the Ability to Choose Their Mobile Technology
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Back when lawyers were electronically tethered to desktops and landlines, having their law firm both foot the bill and specify the products that would appear in their offices made sense. That way, the firm could make sure all the technology functioned well within its own network. As lawyers gained greater mobility thanks to the shrinking size of laptops, the development of notebook computers, and the increasing capabilities of smartphones, having a designated ‘firm’ device and a concomitant personal one became a bit of a hassle.

Fumbling around in one’s bag or suit jacket for the right phone, or switching back and forth between one’s personal laptop and the official law firm one, is, to put it politely, a pain. If you are not downloading porn or taking otherwise inappropriate actions on the Internet, do you really need separation of your devices?

Not really, in the minds of some. Being able to choose your own device is a nice perquisite for a position to which you are going to be devoting a lot of time. Law firms view the scenario just a bit differently: a lawyer who gets to choose his electronic devices will probably be more engaged with them, and will probably be just a bit more protective of them if his own material is on them, too. Firms with bring your own device policies may realize a bit of financial savings as training needs may lessen. If a firm is offering a tech stipend rather than a flat-out reimbursement for costs, it may well be spending less on mobile devices than if would if it were purchasing those electronics and providing them to every attorney.

The Downsides to a BYOD Policy

Of course, what a firm seemingly loses when it take a bring-your-own-device (BYOD) approach is control over those devices. Whether a firm has a lot of control over devices it happens to own once those devices leave the office in the pockets of its employees is, at least in the minds of some, a bit debatable.

Yes, we all know: cellphones get lost, notebooks are dropped, laptops are stolen. Bad things happen to good technological devices all the time no matter who owns them.

Fortunately, technology is such today that a firm, in its bring your own device policy, may decrease risk to security by requiring that any mobile devices accessing its network be passcode protected, by requiring that these devices have specified protection from Internet viruses and other threats, and by maintaining, with the user’s consent, the remote ability to wipe the device clean should it be lost or stolen. Firm data is more easily separated on a device from personal data these days, and a firm might require dual authentication for log-in to its network (for instance, use of a password plus additional passcode from a frequently updated digital key fob).

It’s not to say that there are no downsides to a bring-your-own-device policy at a law firm. As with any device, whether it is chained to a desk or not, security is always a concern. Likewise, a firm wants to make sure that the technology its lawyers are using are easily compatible with the firm’s network. Again, though, many of these concerns can be addressed via a well-crafted policy.

On the fence about whether such an approach is for you? You might consider developing a pilot at your firm including just a few lawyers for a specified period of time to see how the program goes. It might then be expanded to all attorneys and possibly even to certain support staff. 

Next: What to Consider When Considering BYOD