Why Do Law Firms Keep Being Targeted by Cybercriminals?

8 December 2023
Get in touch

Share on social..

November to December has proved to be very testing for law firms here in the UK.

Many have recently come under a microscope in the business world because of the number of high-profile cyber-attacks affecting so many firms.

It was reported in early November that one of the most prestigious legal practices in the country and part of the ‘magic-circle’ had been hit by the criminal ransomware group LockBit.

Additionally, in late November a catastrophic cyber incident hit the legal industry with up to 80 law firms being effectively shut down after their IT supplier had become a victim of a cyber-attack; and the issue is still not fully resolved at the time of publishing (08/12/23).


Why are law firms targeted?

Law firms are heavily engaged in many financial transactions and possess an abundance of confidential client data and sensitive information. This abundance of valuable data creates an opportunity for attackers to monetise any successful breach by either selling the data or by blackmailing the company that’s been hacked.

Moreover, the extortionate cost of downtime for a law firm serves as a financial incentive for attackers using ransomware. When critical systems go down, the operational disruption can be so severe that some law firms decide to pay the ransom to prevent further reputational and financial damage – although there is no guarantee that it will work.

For example, if a law firm that is handling multiple house sales has been impacted by a ransomware, and there is a huge possibility that they will be unable to complete any of the deals which will emotionally and financially impact multiple clients, then a decision may be made to just pay the ransom because the alternative is worse. It must be stressed however that the UK government will always advise against paying any form of ransom and there are no guarantees it will work.

It is rumoured that the ‘magic-circle’ law firm that was mentioned in the introduction paid the ransomware to Lockbit. There are rumours because Lockbit posted the company’s name on the dark web with a warning that all the firm’s data would be published if the ransom was not paid by 29th November. Their name was then removed a few days before the ‘deadline’. The law firm in question has not confirmed whether the ransom was paid, and it may have been removed while negotiations were ongoing.[1]


The consequences for law firms if they suffer a cyber-attack:

Here are just some of the things law firms must deal with after an attack:

  • Reputational damage – no director/partner wants to see their firm plastered all over the news because clients are naming and shaming them for being unable to complete their job or listed on the ICO’s website because of a data breach.
  • Damage or destruction of client relationships.
  • Financial losses – unable to complete transactions; ICO fines; potentially getting sued by clients.
  • Claims on PI insurance cover – premiums likely to go up.
  • System downtime – unable to work or complete transactions.
  • Extreme stress at having to deal with an outage and everything listed above.

Real-world examples:

A recent catastrophic cyber incident has hit the legal industry in the last two weeks. Up to 80 law firms in the UK have not been able to operate after their IT supplier had become a victim of a cyber-attack; and the issue is still not fully resolved at the time of publishing (08/12/23).

Although the granular details have not been published, it has been reported that many clients of affected law firms have been left emotionally distressed at the prospect of their house purchase falling through because their solicitors are unable to work.

A prospective house buyer tweeted on X about the incident:

‘Meant to complete yesterday. Your inability to keep your cyber security in place is causing a lot of distress’.[2]

This is a real-world example of the emotional and financial ripple effects that an operational shutdown can have on people.

Despite the law firms themselves not being directly at fault for the cyber-attack on their IT supplier, they will be the ones that face the potential damages listed above as clients who are facing their own turmoil in not completing their house sales are rightly or wrongly, ‘naming and shaming’ them on social media.

And despite not being directly at fault for the incident, they still bear some responsibility because they must be due diligent in choosing their suppliers.

This topic is huge and deserves its own blog post which we will cover.


A concerning trend:

This type of attack where a third-party supplier is being compromised to cause disruption to their bigger clients is referred to as a supply-chain attack.

Supply-chain attacks are becoming more frequent and it’s very concerning.

More law firms are falling victim to cyberattacks through a third party because sometimes it’s easier for the criminals than to go direct.

Speaking about the recent supply-chain cyber incident on the legal IT provider, Peter Wright, solicitor and managing director of Digital Law UK and an expert in cyber protection, said ‘it is not surprising that hackers went after an IT provider that specialises in supporting law firms’.[3]


Size doesn’t determine the risk: why even small law firms are vulnerable:

It’s a common misconception that small law firms are less vulnerable to cyber threats. In reality, the size of a firm is not the determining factor. Many cyber-attacks begin as random, automated searches for vulnerabilities, only to escalate into more focused and damaging attacks upon finding an entry point.

Vigilance and proactive cybersecurity measures are crucial for all law firms, regardless of their size.


How to safeguard your law firm against cyber threats:

First and foremost, cybersecurity is a board-level issue!

Recognising cybersecurity as a critical board-level concern is the first step in safeguarding your law firm against cyber-attacks.

Compliance with UK GDPR and SRA standards recommends a comprehensive approach to cyber risk management.

This involves assessing potential risks, implementing tailored measures to mitigate them, and continually evaluating the effectiveness of these controls. Key actions include scrutinising vulnerabilities in your technology, providing staff training, and establishing robust policies and procedures.

Staff training has now become imperative because hackers don’t tend to break in, they log in because a member of staff has mistakenly given them access.

Directors and senior partners are held responsible for any data breach and must show due diligence when choosing suppliers. If you have embedded cybersecurity into your working culture and decision making, then the risks of being impacted will be greatly reduced.


What about cyber insurance?

While PI insurance may offer coverage for losses to clients, some of the law firm’s internal losses may be covered through a standalone cyber policy if firms have one. The downside is that any claims made will likely lead to higher insurance premiums so it will impact future finances.

However, it’s crucial to recognise the limitations of insurance coverage. Fines, regulatory actions, harm to client relationships, and damage to reputation remain uncovered by insurance.

Furthermore, the internal disruption, emotional toll, and sleepless nights following a cyber-attack, are beyond the scope of any insurance policy.

The key takeaway is that compliance with legal and regulatory obligations is paramount. Relying solely on insurance is not a substitute for fulfilling these obligations, as it cannot mitigate the broader impact on client relationships, reputation, and the overall well-being of the firm. Directors and senior partners should not solely be relying on insurance.




[1] Law firm A&O silent on whether it paid ransom to cyber-criminals | Law Gazette

[2] Cyber-attack leaves home sales in limbo – BBC News

[3] News focus: Cyber-attack on law firm IT provider CTS hits conveyancing firms – what lessons need to be learned? | Law Gazette

What our customers say

Lumina Technologies have taken the time to understand the requirements of our business and work as our strategic IT partner, enabling us to concentrate on delivering a high quality service to our clients and focus on our growth strategy. They have delivered a 100% cloud solution to our business with no underlying infrastructure costs or maintenance, which gives us scalability for our planned growth. It also means our business critical applications and data are securely accessible from virtually all our user devices. Lumina’s professional approach and strategic expertise is highly valued and their management of our IT – based on their in-depth knowledge, leaves us confident that our systems are available 24×7.

Luke Harrison
Keidan Harrison LLP

Lumina have supported us so well through the difficult circumstances of 2020.  They worked extremely hard to ensure we were able to work remotely and continue to operate our business successfully. The support team are very friendly and knowledgeable, and have excellent response times.

The team have also enhanced our cyber security which is so important in the legal sector, and they continue to provide high quality advice to help us move forward with our IT goals.

Robin Illingworth
Managing Partner, Adams & Remers LLP

The quality of IT Support provided by Lumina Technology is of the highest standard and is complemented by effective client liaison with impressive response times. Trap Oil Group plc has no hesitation in recommending Lumina as a dedicated and specialist group of IT professionals.

Martin David
Technical Director, Trap Oil Group plc

Richard and his team are a real inspiration to anyone who meets them and I have watched Lumina’s growth over the last few years with interest and admiration. Richard has been an amazing supporter of the Hospice of St Francis, being a Gold member of the Corporate Partner Network for almost two years. He takes an active interest in the community and is passionate about his company and his town: nothing is too much trouble, he is always willing to help, to give up his time and to provide business advice when asked. Lumina is an inspiration to any company wanting to set up business in Hertfordshire.

Carolyn Addison
Corporate Fundraising Manager, The Hospice of St Francis

Lumina Technologies Prism Hosted Desktop has allowed our business to centralise our global corporate data, allowing much faster access for all our staff – regardless of their location. We have also been able to simplify and reduce our infrastructure and management overhead. With the new Prism Hosted Desktop solution all staff now have simple and secure access to corporate data using any device they choose. Prism Hosted Desktop has increased the productivity of our staff and given us a single, consistent and familiar experience for all users from any device, in any location, 24/7.

Katherine Roe
Chief Executive Officer, Wentworth Resources PLC

The commercially sensitive and regulated nature of Lambert Energy Advisory’s business requires an IT provider able to maintain the highest levels of integrity and confidentiality, Lumina Technologies has consistently been unimpeachable in this regard over the nine years we have employed them.

Patrick Agar
Lambert Energy Advisory

It has been a great pleasure working with Lumina Technologies over the past two years. They have fully committed to being involved in the local community with volunteering and with professional advice and commitment, helping many local charities along the way. As a growing company it proves that being involved in the local community is helping them attract and retain a talented workforce and I look forward to working with them well into the future.

Cindy Withey
Connect Dacorum

Hawkstone Management Services Ltd is a small company for which IT Outsourcing is realistically the only viable option. Lumina Technologies have successfully performed this role for over fifteen years. They also provide innovative solutions to keep pace with technological progress. I would have no hesitation in recommending Lumina to similar sized businesses.

Stephen Pembury
Hawkstone Management Services Ltd

Charles Douglas Solicitors LLP have been using Lumina Technologies for a number of years now and continue to be impressed by the technical know-how and contemporary knowledge of their senior management, who provide a timely, efficient and friendly service. Whether it is a small issue with one computer, or a strategic IT decision, they maintain a current knowledge of available technologies. Lumina are always at the other end of the phone to help resolve issues and minimise business interference. The technical knowledge of Richard and his senior team means that there has not been a problem that they can’t solve to date. I am sure we will continue to use them in the years to come.

Charles Douglas
Managing Partner, Charles Douglas Solicitors LLP

The team at Lumina Technologies have made the Amoun Travel & Tours office IT transition seamless and problem free. The office set-up has been vastly improved and the IT Support services are flawless. No issue goes unresolved, which is extremely reassuring.

Adam Helmy
Amoun Travel & Tours Ltd

Lumina Technologies has been Salamander Energy plc’s IT provider since start-up in 2005 and has supported us in London during our expansion across operational offices in SE Asia. Their professional approach, strategic advice and close co-operation have been essential in making this a success.

John Bell
Group Technical Director, Salamander Energy plc

Richard and his team at Lumina have provided Perrett Laver Limited with high quality strategic and practical IT Services for over ten years. During this period, Perrett Laver has grown from 10+ colleagues based in London to nearly 100 colleagues located in six offices across the Americas, EMEA and Asia-Pacific. Richard and the Lumina team have not just been responsive to our ‘everyday’ IT needs, but have proactively sought to work with us on developing an infrastructure suitable for the type of operation we are today, and are planning to be months and years down the line. I would not hesitate to recommend Richard, especially for small to medium size business with growth in mind.

Clementine McKinley
COO, Perrett Laver Limited

Society Limited has been supported by Lumina Technologies since our earliest start-up phase. From large logistical challenges like an office move, through to smaller fiddly issues like fixing a faulty e-template, we know we can count on their support and advice. They’ve also been able to engage with us strategically on the challenge of scaling-up our infrastructure as the firm continues to grow and evolve. We always feel confident going to Lumina with a problem, since we know they genuinely care about sorting things out and helping us to get on with our core business.

Simon Lucas
Managing Director, Society Limited

The Vita Group HQ staff have worked with Richard McBarnet and Lumina Technologies for over 9 years, with Lumina providing all our PC, server, phone, and software support. The services have included C-level executives based in London, Manchester, the US, as well as supporting home office IT as well. The service provided and intellectual capabilities are outstanding and we would highly recommend Richard and his Lumina team.

Joe Menendez
CEO, The Vita Group

We worked with Lumina on a GDPR Audit. Richard was knowledgeable and professional throughout, and did the best he could to bring a dry topic to life through lots of real life examples and analogies. We were so impressed with the service Lumina provided and the value we got from partnering with them on this project – we couldn’t recommend them enough.

Holly Cottingham, Vintec Laboratories

Discuss your business needs today

Get in touch Schedule a call