Secure Document Exchange (SDX)

Your Choice: SDX or the 6-O’Clock News?


It seems that hardly a month goes by these days without news of some corporate or government privacy breach.  Many of these breaches are related to email systems and they show how easy it is to accidentally send confidential information into the public Internet.

Paper letters are referred to now as snail mail because it is too slow and inconvenient in today’s fast paced world.

Virtually all lawyer to lawyer communication is by email.  It is so convenient and so immediate and so efficient.  Isn’t it worth trading off potential confidentiality breaches for efficiency?

Not really – you’re a lawyer and the integrity of your business, the continuation of your client’s confidence in you shouldn’t be compromised – even if the risk is small.

Email Considerations

Besides the obvious problem with users selecting the wrong recipients or attachments, email has other attributes that make it a potentially problematic mechanism for distributing confidential information.

  1. Once you hit “Send” the email leaves the security of your local area network and travels over the public Internet.  Even if the sender and the recipient are across the road the message may travel halfway across the world before being delivered.  The route it travels depends on many factors but it sometimes will include a series of “hops” from server to server along the way, some of which can be in foreign countries.  At each “hop” the servers will typically queue the messages on local disk before re-transmission and may or may not delete them afterwards.  So it is quite possible that your message will leave copies of itself along the way.  Whilst most email servers are operated by credible organizations, you literally have no control over the process once it leaves your office.
  2. You cannot recall an email once it has been sent and you cannot control the re-distribution of that message once it is in someone else’s hands.
  3. There are no receipt guarantees.  All you know for sure is that you hit “Send” on your local computer, but you cannot guarantee when, or even if, the recipient will receive it.
  4. Because messages often travel through several servers along the way they can get trans-coded, or have one or more attachments stripped along the way, depending on the configuration and capabilities of each server.

With all that said however email is a good general-purpose communication tool.  The question is simply whether it is the right tool for lawyers to use to send confidential information about a client or a client’s transaction.

SDX using ActionStep

How it Works

There are two scenarios whereby lawyers can exchange documents using ActionStep SDX:

Scenario 1: One, or both, firms already use ActionStep internally

Under this scenario at least one of the firms involved in the matter use ActionStep internally for practice management.  In this case all the firm needs to do is add the other party (client, lawyer, etc) as a contact in their ActionStep system and grant them a login with the appropriate permissions.  The party will automatically receive an email with directions on how to login and access the shared documents.

The external party will only be able to see the page containing the shared documents.

Scenario 2: Neither party currently use ActionStep internally

ActionStep will create a central facility whereby lawyers can register and create matters document folders on an as-needed basis for the purposes of sharing and tracking the documents.  The lawyers will then be able to invite other parties to access the shared documents by granting them logins.

But wait, there’s more


Besides simply acting as a secure repository for document, ActionStep also has the ability to automatically assemble documents by combining live data with Word templates.  This functionality will be extended to provide a link through to the ADLSI Web-Forms which will grant members quick access to Web-Forms from within the ActionStep matters.


For firms that wish to create structured workflow around their document management ActionStep provides a comprehensive facility for creating steps, tasks, and dependencies to ensure that work is carried out in the correct sequence and that all the appropriate information is collected before the documents are generated.

The Full Monty

ActionStep is a complete practice management system which includes matter management, documents, calendars, email, contacts, time-recording, billing, accounting and trust accounting.  Firms who are looking to upgrade their old practice management systems may want to consider moving their whole operation across to ActionStep.

Ted Jordan, ActionStep / Jonathan Flaws, Sanderson Weir

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