Are Online Intake Forms an Ethical Concern?

by | Sep 4, 2019 | Cyber Security | 0 comments

Attorneys are tasked with learning as much as they can about a potential client’s legal challenges as well as the client’s background.  The more information made available, the easier it is to determine if it is prudent to accept the prospect as a client.  Ethical rules bar representations if conflicts might arise.  Therefore, law firms must be aware of the legal backgrounds and even the financial ties of prospective clients.  The question is whether it is prudent to use online intake forms.


To use Intake Forms or not to use Intake Forms? That is the Question

It was not long ago when law firms relied upon inefficient paper intake forms along with lengthy client interviews to obtain the information required to perform an assessment.  The information was then transmitted to computer by way of data entry.  Unfortunately, this approach led to countless errs and chewed up a considerable amount of time and money.  Enter online intake forms.

Rather than gathering data over the phone or through in-person meetings, it is now possible to collect information through the web.  Online intake software empowers law firms to collect highly specific data in the manner they desire.  Firms can create nuanced questions, open the door for free-form responses or even let respondents choose from multiple choice options.  It has become remarkably easy to seamlessly mesh client responses with the current practice management software.


The Ethics of the Matter

Fully encrypted online intake forms adhere to the ethical standards for protecting client data.  The primary concern in the context of online intake forms is keeping client data shielded against online attacks.  After all, these intake forms have important data ranging from financial information to Social Security numbers and beyond.  Hackers are well aware of the fact that law firms have such valuable information.

It is not sensible to bypass the online intake form as any information collected through paper documents would eventually be scanned into the system anyway.  The bottom line is we have quickly converted to a digital society in which it is no longer logical to keep filing cabinets full of tangible documents.  As long as law firms that the steps necessary to prevent unauthorized access to client data, there is no reason to avoid online intake forms to properly vet clients.


How to Prevent Data Theft

Multi-factor authentication can prevent the vast majority of data breaches.  This extra level of verification goes well beyond the regular password.  From retinal scans to USB tokens, text messages to the authorized user and beyond, multi-factor authentication has myriad ways of forcing those requesting access to sensitive data to prove their identity.

It will also help to proactively patch your firm’s computer systems.  Such patches are released on a monthly basis to ensure the latest safeguards are in place.  Patch your system in a timely manner and it will be that much more difficult for hackers to access your sensitive data. Even the use of email attachment scanning tools will help guard against phishing attacks.

The moral of the story is those who are proactive with digital security should have no qualms about using online intake forms to review prospective clients.  Maintain the proper digital safeguards and you will be able to use today’s technology to its fullest extent in your quest to pinpoint the optimal clients for your firm.


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