Encryption Made Simple for Lawyers

Posted on by Ben Rothke

The good thing about encryption is that it can make your data virtually impossible to be read by anyone except those you allow. The bad thing about encryption is that it’s relatively easy to do wrong. And in many cases, people have made configuration errors such that they have locked themselves out of their own data.

In Encryption Made Simple for Lawyers (American Bar Association - 978-1634250580), authors David Ries, John Simek and Sharon Nelson (of which Ries and Nelson are lawyers) have written a handy introductory text on encryption. Of the 12 chapters, only the first 3 are written with a purely legal focus.


With that, since encryption is now de rigueur for any professional, the book will be helpful to the reader that wants to know the practical aspects surrounding the various topics involved with encryption, without getting bogged down in the technicalities or mathematics of encryption and cryptography. 

The book provides the reader with the basics and history of encryption, along with details on how to effective encrypt their data.

The authors write that lawyers are mandated to know what technology is needed and how to use it as per the American Bar Association (ABA) rule 1.1, which mandates that a lawyer must provide competent representation to a client. Competent representation requires the legal knowledge, skill, thoroughness and preparation reasonably necessary for the representation. With that, in 2016, encryption and its related tasks are unquestionably required for every lawyer.

Additional ABA rules relevant to encryption include rule 1.4 on client-lawyer communications and rule 1.6 on confidentiality of information.

At 240 pages, the book is a relatively quick read. For those that don’t have the time to plough through the entire book, it concludes with a 4 page encryption quick start action plan that outlines the steps lawyers can do to implement encryption.

While nearly everything in the book has a focus on the practical, chapter 12 closes the book with 9 pages on the future of encryption. The authors get into quantum physics and quantum computing; forgetting that Richard Feynman astutely noted that “nobody understands quantum mechanics”. While interesting, the reader may finish the book scratching their head in confusion.

Law firms may want to bulk order Encryption Made Simple for Lawyers for their entire legal team. Because now that this book is out, lawyers no longer have an excuse that encryption is way too complex for them. As Ries, Simek and Nelson have shown that it’s a topic even a lawyer can understand.

Ben Rothke

Senior Information Security Manager, Tapad

data security law legislation

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