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Data Protection and GDPR – Protecting Your Firm
April 6, 2023

Introduction

With the advancement in technology, cyberattacks have become more prevalent and sophisticated. Subsequently, this has led to increased data theft incidents that can have severe consequences for firms and their clients. Read our previous article – Cybercrime Warning, A Must Read

Therefore, law firms must take compliance with GDPR seriously and implement effective policies to control and communicate how data is protected. By doing so, they can create a secure environment for their clients’ data and protect their reputation in the market.

Data Protection – Your Responsibility

Law firms are entrusted with sensitive and confidential information from their clients and staff, making managing, controlling, and protecting data an essential element of their compliance and regulatory strategy.

2.1 Policies, Controls and Procedures

To ensure that they comply with the requirements set out by UK General Data Protection Regulation (the UK GDPR), the Data Protection Act 2018 (the Data Protection Act) and the EU GDPR, law firms must have appropriate data protection policies in place. These policies should be designed to manage and control the significant amount of personal data that law firms handle regularly. As standard practice, firms should implement and approach policies that include:

  • A data protection policy that details how the firm protects, uses, and manages data.
  • A data protection notice that is issued to clients confirming how the data is used, protected, and processed.
  • Training for staff on the firm’s policies and procedures.
  • Consent (Positive opt-in) for the use of data.
  • A Data (GDPR) annual audit to establish the effectiveness of the firm’s data protection approach.

2.2 Appointment of a Data Protection Officer

One of the other requirements of GDPR is that firms that handle sensitive personal data on a large scale must appoint a Data Protection Officer (DPO). However, determining what constitutes “large scale” can be subjective and may vary depending on the size and nature of the firm. You can read guidance from the Law Society here: Appoint A Data Protection Officer (DPO)

Regardless of who is responsible for data protection, firms need to appoint someone who is knowledgeable in data protection law and understands how the firm collects and uses data. This may involve collaboration between different departments within the firm, such as marketing and IT, and may require the advice of an in-house data protection lawyer or external specialist.

It is essential that the data protection lead can instil good practices throughout the firm. This role requires not only personal expertise and authority but also support and commitment from the firm’s management team.

If a firm is legally required to have a DPO, and resources or expertise are unavailable in-house, it can appoint an external service provider to fulfil the role, such as the compliance specialists at The Strategic Partner. We work with firms of all sizes to implement effective data protection policies, controls, procedures, and GDPR Audits, as part of an overall compliance structure. Read more about our Data Protection and GDPR compliance services.

By taking these steps, firms can ensure they comply with GDPR and protect the privacy of their customers’ personal data.

A failure to implement the necessary policies and procedures to manage, control, and protect this data can result in severe consequences for law firms. Not only will they be in breach of legislative requirements, but they will also be in violation of their SRA code of conduct. These failings will put them at risk of facing regulatory scrutiny and could expose them to reputational damage.

Completing A Data Protection Audit

While it may not be possible to completely prevent a data breach from occurring, firms must be prepared to respond appropriately and in accordance with regulatory guidelines. It is mandatory for firms to periodically review their compliance with GDPR to identify any gaps in their security measures. However, no clear guidance exists on how often such reviews should be conducted.

That said, firms would be advised to conduct a review at least once every two years or annually for larger organisations to ensure they are always up-to-date with the latest regulations and standards. Failure to comply with GDPR can result in severe consequences such as SRA investigations, Data commissioner investigations, Negligence, and damage claims.

The Strategic Partner provides GDPR and Data Protection Audit Services that will provide an assessment of the Firm’s data protection practices and compliance with the UK GDPR and Data Protection Act 2018. Find out more below:

GDPR and Data Protection Audit Services

Our GDPR audit will provide the firm’s management with the confidence of knowing that it is compliant with the requirements of the regulation and can demonstrate such compliance. We will identify any issues or concerns along with knowledge gaps and provide solutions and proposals to rectify these. Download our brochure to find out more about these services:

GDPR and Data Protection Audit

Regulatory Guidance and Support from Industry Experts

If you would like guidance on how your firm should approach staff training, policies and procedures, including those for GDPR and Data Protection, or you wish to confirm your firm is achieving the required standard, at The Strategic Partner, we offer a range of solutions which include: –

  • Review – a review of the firm’s approach to regulation and compliance to include all regulatory requirements and AML procedures. The output of this provides the firm with a written gap analysis and solutions to remedy any issues. – find out more about the Detailed Firm Strategic Review
  • Training – Whether you seek training on a 1-2-1 or group basis, The Strategic Partner has a range of training courses and mentoring programmes to suit any firm. We can also design any additional bespoke courses that you need. We train firms of all sizes, and our clients range from sole practitioners to multi-office, multi-service firms with overseas offices.
  • Auditing – Procedural staff, systems, and files to ensure the procedures are up to the required standard and being implemented at case level with a report of the outcome. – find out more about our Auditing Services

Our packaged risk and compliance solutions provide guidance and support to firms on a range of topics and include: –

  • Our Risk, Regulation and Compliance Service (including AML), provides firms with the necessary Policies Control and Procedures (PCP’s) – that are in line with CQS requirements and the standard of the relevant quality mark – alongside training, supervision structure, an annual independent assessment and reporting. This solution ensures that firms and their staff are compliant and remain so. It also clarifies what to do in the event of a mistake and/or a breach occurs.
  • Our extended service, Risk, Compliance, AML Guidance and Register Administration, provides an outsource solution for firms where The Strategic Partner not only manages and maintains the risk registers and provides guidance to all staff (inc. Partners), we also produce monthly risk and compliance reports.

Combining these two solutions provides a law firm with a robust and cost-effective risk and compliance strategy that ensures staff have access to expert guidance as needed.

Get in Touch

For more information on The Strategic Partner and to discuss how we may be able to assist in accelerating your risk management or compliance and regulation or simply to keep this up to date you can call us on 020 3911 9710 or email us info@thestrategicpartner.co.uk. 

You can view and download the PDF version of this article here.

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