Mediating Apple and Android

By  Stephanie Blanchard, Digital Editor — September 10, 2013

Staffing 50 attorneys, and 120 employees, Dowling Aaron, a California law firm prides itself on being able to stay constantly in contact with clients, regardless of the hour. The firm focuses on real estate, employment law and corporate transactions,  probate and alternative dispute resolution.

With a mixed schedule, only 10% of attorneys are primarily in the office, the rest are in the  field working on depositions,  trials or fact-finding missions related to cases.

Back in the day, when only three attorneys would bother to bring in their Palm Treos and sync to their Outlook, CIO Darin Adcock was easily able to keep tabs on data and devices. With the rise of smartphones, suddenly each attorney had a personal mobile device and monitoring went to overload.

As with other industries, attorneys were either Team Droid or Team Apple. A problem quickly surfaced, however, not with the choice of OSes, but  with the access to corporate data.

A data breach certainly puts a firm’s reputation at risk, not only with clients, but the courts. The cost for non-compliance when it comes to divulging personal information is crippling. Resulting fines range from hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars.

The firm researched solutions that would provide basic security settings and remote wipe capabilities for an assortment of mobile devices. Working with CDW, Dowling Aaron chose AirWatch for its mobile device management (MDM) solution, licensing on a per-device basis.

As the “great mediator,” the MDM solution allows employees to stick with the devices they prefer, instead of  being forced to accept a particular phone.

“I would be frustrating a good number of attorneys if I made the choice for them,” Adcock said, adding that owning two different phones would also present a communication problem. If  an employee leaves the corporate device at home during personal outings, he or she may miss an important message regarding an upcoming trial.

“Everything is a rush in our industry, very tight filing deadlines. And of course, the courts are very adamant about getting your stuff in on time. Not a lot of leeway there,” he said.

BYOD Benefits
Once remote wipe capabilities were available, Dowling Aaron was then able to set up a BYOD policy which included security protocol and a data reimbursement plan.

The law firm already had a standard computer and device policy in place, which protected devices used in conjunction with Dowling Aaron work. However, “It wasn’t until after AirWatch that we developed a specific BYOD policy and of course that policy gets reviewed and revised often as new situations arise,” Adcock explained.

Employees are able to opt out but if they do, become unable to sync via their mobile devices. If he or she wishes to work after hours, the attorney has to VPN the old fashioned way.

As a result of its updated device policy, combined with robust security provided by the Airwatch solution, the law firm sees benefits to its budget, and everyday productivity has increased. “These guys are on their phones multitasking all the time,” Adcock said.

Because employees buy their own devices, the law firm saves on purchasing hardware. And, as more attorneys bring in their own iPads, there is a decrease in the amount of corporate issued laptops and associated support costs.

Putting it in Practice
After the solution was implemented, an attorney’s car was broken into, and his iPhone stolen. The employee called Adcock who then instructed Airwatch to send a complete wipe signal.

The employee was thankful that his personal banking info, photos, and other identifying details were also wiped, along with the corporate data, Adcock said. The wipe not only prevented confidential client information from making it into the wrong hands, it limited the attorney’s own exposure - to a potential criminal finding him later.

“Now that the employees understand the benefits of MDM and Airwatch, we will dig deeper into security policies,” Adcock concluded. “And I’m no longer known as Big Brother, but Big Helper.”

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