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Law Firms Face Dual Threats: AI Data Leaks and Cyberattacks

Insight | Jul 24, 2023

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In the digital age, law firms are grappling with two significant challenges: inadvertent data leaks through artificial intelligence (AI) tools and an unprecedented surge in cyberattacks.

Don't Feed AI Your Confidential Information (especially your clients)

The legal industry's increasing reliance on AI, such as OpenAI's ChatGPT, has inadvertently led to the exposure of confidential data. Many legal professionals, while appreciating the speed and efficiency of AI in legal research and document drafting, failed to realize that their interactions with these tools could be recalled and used for AI training.

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OpenAI introduced an option to disable chat history for ChatGPT on April 25, 2023, to safeguard confidential data. However, many law firms were not aware of this development and continued to unknowingly feed their data to the AI. This situation has been exacerbated by the fact that many law firms have not prohibited the use of AI tools like ChatGPT, thereby increasing the risk of data exposure.

Majority of Law Firms Grappling with Cyberattacks

Simultaneously, law firms are experiencing a surge in cyberattacks, with a record number of data breaches reported in a short span. The UK's National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) recently revealed that nearly 75% of the UK's top 100 law firms have been impacted by cyberattacks, a trend that is likely mirrored in the U.S.

The aftermath of these breaches has seen a rise in class action lawsuits against law firms. For instance, Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner faced a class action lawsuit following a data breach that compromised the data of over 51,000 current and former employees. The firm was accused of negligence, breach of implied contract, breach of contract, unjust enrichment, and invasion of privacy.

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Robust Cybersecurity Strategy for Law Firms Needed

The combination of AI data leaks and cyberattacks necessitates a more robust cybersecurity strategy for law firms. Despite the escalating threats, a survey by PriceWaterHouseCoopers revealed that the top 1000 law firms spent less than 1% of their fee income on cybersecurity. As the legal industry navigates this complex landscape, it is crucial for law firms to invest more in cybersecurity measures to protect their confidential data and maintain client trust.

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