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Protecting Your Data in High Stakes Legal Ventures

The worlds of Mergers and Acquisitions (M&A) and cross border litigation are volatile ones. Flaws in a data or content translation supply chain, and assistive technology, can impact a deal or case, pushing a merger or creating untenable footing for a legal counsel, and their clients, or in the court of law.

Now imagine the impact of a data leak on a potential merger or documents being hacked from a third party translator’s computer – someone you trusted to keep information and content secure? The truth is that data leakage is now a big problem for the legal industry, particularly when it comes to large scale multinational legal projects. For example, reports suggest that data leakage involving M&As is up 9% year-on-year over the past decade, according to an Intralinks study in 2017. This opens companies to substantial fines and regulations from the SEC (or similar governing bodies).

One area that many businesses overlook is the risk that an outdated translation process and supply chain places on multinational legal ventures. It might seem like a quick and easy way to understand a foreign document or contract, but free online translation tools expose a company to enormous risk. As an example, last year it was revealed that documents translated through Translate.com were indexed and scattered across the internet for anyone to find.

Would you want your deal-breaking or strategy defining documents exposed? Of course not. If you translate sensitive legal documents, below are some helpful recommendations for you to consider in 2019 and beyond to reduce your risk profile.

  • Remember that humans are more often than not the weakest link in security. M&A, litigation and cross border case work is by nature a human process, but involves coordinating with internal resources, auditors, banks, and outside counsel among many other vendors. Utilizing secure Machine Translation (MT) tools and in-house translators will limit how many eyes see your data. The more limited you can keep data through AI (Artificial Intelligence) and MT – the less risk you are exposed to as a business owner/representative.
  • Remember that free is never secure and neither is decentralized workflows! Use resources that are hosted in a secure, closed environment, rather than open source – or free environments, and translators and supply chains that can be audited and subject to one provider’s security network.
  • Most companies acknowledge that they will have to deal with leaks at some point. It may be a high-profile case such as CBS and their counsel during the Les Moonves accusations, or a minor data leakage in an attempt to raise share prices. Regardless of which – they’re both enormously damaging. By working with a translation partner and controlling your supply chain you reduce the potential for leaks, as well as provide an easy and accurate auditable trail.
  • Vet your translation partners, and look for a secure supply chain, from humans touching the data, through to any technological resources touching your information. Keeping as much of the translation process in house with your partners will limit your risk scope, whether you’re the banks, lawyers advising, or the company providing the data. Ideally look for partners who have developed their technology in-house and aren’t reselling other companies’ technology. Machine Translation, or AI solutions, developed and managed in-house is more secure than a channel partner or re-seller scenario.
  • The main advice and takeaway is to approach all disclosures with risk in mind, and limit access to your data through third party vendors. The key is to know who has your data, who can see it, and what questions to ask your partner, to ensure that they are protecting your data in a manner consistent with global and local regulations.

Translations are, of course, just one area that lawyers and their clients need to consider as part of a data protection strategy. But once best-practices are in place, and teams are collaborating in a secure translation environment, you provide an auditable process to stand behind, as you are confident in your data and information being protected.

If you’re attending LegalTech, come visit us at booth 2101! The SDL team will be available to talk about securely managing your translations through our in-house resources and industry leading technologies.