Dropbox and How Legal Teams are Using It Effectively

By Albatross Editorial Team

Lawyers and legal teams deal with a tremendous amount of data and files at any given time. At the same time, paper files and paper-based discovery is becoming less the norm and being replaced by electronic data storage and sharing and eDiscovery. 

While this switch to digital certainly adds an element of convenience, it also allows for new security concerns that need to be considered within the legal community to protect client files and data. Learn more here about law firm security best practices.

Dropbox is an increasingly popular file hosting service. Private users and companies alike rely on this cloud service regularly to share and store files, data, and software. But, is it the right choice for law firms? Dropbox definitely thinks so; Here’s a breakdown on how they feel their service can help lawyers:

  1. Sharing files with clients / or receiving files from clients - Prior to dropbox collaborating on files was more difficult as it involved emailing different versions of documents back and forth with the client. With DropBox all you have to is ‘share’ the file or folder and the user will be able to access those files directly (no email needed). Of course it is secure, so that only the person with that email can have access.
  2. Media Consolidation - Dropbox allows for all contributing users to place media in spot, instead of leaving them in multiple locations. This allows for more straightforward review and editing. As Peter Holm, Dropbox product counsel, puts it, 

“If they drop all of their media into one Paper doc, you don’t have to go to 10 different places to review one thing. It’s seamless when you can review it all right there and make your comments or edits. It saves a lot of time.” 

Figma, Photoshop, AutoCAD, assorted video files, and other media formats can all be embedded with Dropbox, as well. This allows for the unique ability of users who don’t have corresponding software to be able to review the media.

  1. Privacy and Access Control - Password protection, link viewing expiration dates, and download disabling, seeing who has been viewing the document - all of these features are offered through Dropbox and prove important for those in the legal space. Holm expands, 

“It lets us say ‘You can share this with these people, but when the time’s up—we’re going to cut off access. The access control features of both Paper and Dropbox in general are helpful in that regard because it’s easy for us to tell teams, ‘Okay, make sure you keep it to ‘invite-only’ access and that you don’t turn on link sharing.’ That gives you more ability to restrict content than you would have with a file living on a server.” For sensitive programs, your Dropbox team folder can be specified as “internal only.”

  1. Collaboration with Checklists - The checklist capability that Dropbox offers has proven immensely helpful for law firms in with team collaboration and communication with their clients. Cody Gomberg, part of Dropbox’s product counsel team, further explains how this tool is helpful following invites to other users,

“We’ll start drafting up some guidance for a client, then throw it into a Paper doc, and have the entire team collaborate on it. We include timelines for when we have to figure this out, then invite different clients to check out what the guidance looks like. From there, it becomes a living document. For us, that’s super helpful because we can see the history of how a doc was constructed. Who’s looking at it? Who’s waiting on feedback? Have all the appropriate parties been contacted? Seeing the live comments and selecting out specific things and seeing how things change in real time helps us have a concept of “what is this really saying?” Legislation changes a lot, whether it’s state bills, federal bills to international bills, that could affect our guidance. This is our guidance today, but what are we going to do in six months or a year? How can we update it so everyone is aware of that? That really allows us to all get on the same page. It’s an educational tool that helps us empower our clients to make informed legal decisions about what they’re doing.”

  1. Feedback - Within Dropbox, there’s a “@mention” feature that allows users to comment and request the attention of other users whom they need feedback or comment from. When dealing with a lot of information or multiple documents, this can be an especially important option for users to navigate the portions that are important to them.
  1. Delegation - Streamlining and easy delegation of tasks has never been easier with the use of self-serve guides in Dropbox. Using this feature allows team leaders to stop answering the same questions repeatedly and experience smoother workflows with guides that can quickly and easily answer questions. Here’s how Dropbox used the option internally, exp[lained by Holm,

“Dropbox publishes a lot of blog posts and marketing materials that we historically always reviewed to make sure there were no legal issues. But a lot of the things you’re looking for are the same questions over and over again. If you’re quoting someone, did they sign off on it? If you’re using an image, was it properly licensed? Is it in the public domain? Where’s the image coming from? If you’re writing about another company, are you properly using their trademarks?We had an internal document of things we were going to look for, so we could synchronize ourselves and always make sure we’re catching everything. We turned that into a version for non lawyers that could be a checklist. If you want to publish a blog, it shows all the questions to answer first. After you answer those questions, if the answer is acceptable for all of them, then you don’t even need to come to us.”

Plans Offered

Most of the plan choice will boil down to how many users are anticipated and how much space is needed; However, we’ve got a quick breakdown and description below of each business plan to help make things a little easier.

Standard Business Plan

Price: $12.50/user/month

Storage Available: 5 TB

Features: All core Dropbox features are available, such as access anywhere and encryption, as well as advanced data protection features and collaboration tools; However, it’s missing admin, network control, and auditing features. Space is also limited to 5TB. This can be an excellent choice for small law firms or solo practitioners.

Advanced Business Plan

Price: $20/user/month

Storage Available: Unlimited

Features: All core Dropbox features are available, such as access anywhere and encryption, as well as advanced data protection features and collaboration tools; Advanced admin tools are also available with this plan option, and storage is unlimited - making this plan a good choice for slightly larger to medium-sized law firms.

Enterprise Business Plan

Price: Contact Dropbox

Storage Available: Unlimited

Features: All core Dropbox features are available, such as access anywhere and encryption, as well as advanced data protection features and collaboration tools; Advanced admin tools and network management tools are also available with this plan option, and storage is unlimited - making this plan a great selection for big law firms.

Maintaining Security

Doing anything online always brings up questions of security for lawyers. Dropbox addresses security questions and concerns pretty extensively and seems to have a good grasp of its importance for companies in general. The file-hosting service breaks their security practices down into three main groups, which we’ve summarized below:

File Protection - Dropbox explains that they use extensive encryption protection, file recovery, and security testing to protect user files and data. They also have implemented protocols to protect users when using third-party apps.

Privacy Protection - So that users can have a clear view of just how their data is treated and kept private through Dropbox, they publish transparency reports on government data requests from them and on European data requirements. 

Account Protection - Because account access and protection is so crucial to protecting company files and data, Dropbox encourages strong password creation through their strength estimator and offers two-step verification processes for that extra amount of protection when needed. The user security page can also allow for account activity to be monitored for any issues or inconsistencies. 

Should Lawyers Use Dropbox?

Dropbox offers dynamic security options, excellent sharing and collaboration tools, and is being increasingly used in the workplace and in law offices everywhere; All that being said, how is it determined if it’s the right data and file storage service for a law firm? The service used can be a relatively big decision for any lawyer, and comparing services and options is always a good idea. As far as Dropbox is concerned, however, the ABA reports that their 2018 Survey indicates 60% of respondents chose it as their firm’s online file storage option.