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24 Feb 2024

Trust in Legal Advisors: New research shows gender difference

In an era where personal data protection is at the forefront of public consciousness, the trust we place in professionals handling our sensitive information becomes paramount. But our research shows men and women have a differing view.

Legal advisors, barristers and solicitors entrusted with the confidential details of our lives are expected to maintain the highest data security and integrity standards. However, our recent research findings shed light on a surprising gender disparity in concerns over protecting personal data handled by legal professionals.

According to our survey conducted among a diverse sample group of over 320 people, it was revealed that men exhibit a higher level of concern regarding the security of their personal information when entrusting it to legal advisors compared to women. The survey results present a nuanced perspective on how individuals perceive the handling of their sensitive data.

Chart: How concerned are you about the security of your data with barristers and solicitors

The survey suggests that a notable portion of both men and women express concerns about data handled by legal professionals. This could be because they recognise that solicitors and barristers are not immune from attacks by cybercriminals.

Indeed, statistics from the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) show they are a regular target. The sensitive data held by legal firms commands a high price on the dark web.

However, men seem to exhibit a higher level of apprehension, with 52% expressing either very concerned or a little concerned, compared to 44.7% of women.

Why is there a gender difference?

Several factors could contribute to this gender disparity:

Perceived Risk Sensitivity: Men might perceive certain legal matters as inherently riskier, thus heightening their concerns about data security. For instance, issues like financial transactions, property disputes, or criminal cases could be perceived as more sensitive by men, leading to increased apprehension about data security.

Communication Styles: Men and women may communicate differently when expressing concerns. Men might be more likely to vocalise their worries about data security, whereas women might internalise their concerns or express them subtly. This could skew the survey results, giving the impression that men are more concerned overall.

Past Experiences or Cultural Influences: Previous experiences or cultural norms surrounding privacy and data protection could influence individuals' perceptions. Men might have encountered instances where legal professionals mishandled their data or have been exposed to cultural narratives emphasising the importance of safeguarding personal information.

While the survey results offer valuable insights into gender disparities over data security, it's essential to acknowledge that individual experiences and perceptions can vary widely. Trust in legal advisors ultimately hinges on factors such as professionalism, ethical conduct, and transparency in handling personal data rather than solely on gender-based differences.

Reflecting on personal experiences, many individuals might recall instances where they've had to share sensitive information with legal advisors. The level of concern about security can vary depending on factors such as the nature of the legal matter, the reputation of the legal professional, and personal experience of a data security breach.

Data Protection for Customer Acquisition

The results of this sector-specific research should be viewed against the backdrop of a general concern about data security. Earlier research we conducted showed that, on average, 60%* of men and women are more concerned about their personal data than a year ago.

However, this negative view is actually an opportunity. Solicitors and barristers who demonstrate strong data protection will gain greater trust and confidence from their clients.

A solicitor or barrister's website that carries the Cyber Essentials Plus or ISO27001 logo is likely to instil greater confidence among consumers. Activating Data Loss Prevention (DLP) protocols to reduce internal data leakage, as well as phishing awareness campaigns to prevent external attacks, can help protect the all-important reputation of a firm.

Cyber security can win you customers; so it’s an investment, not a cost.

In conclusion, the gender disparity in concerns over data security when dealing with legal professionals highlights the multifaceted nature of trust in the digital age. While men may exhibit a higher level of apprehension, it's crucial to recognise that trust is built on professionalism, ethical conduct and technical security measures, irrespective of gender. 

Moving forward, ongoing efforts to enhance data protection measures and promote awareness about privacy rights will be instrumental in fostering greater trust in law firms handling sensitive personal information.

* Source = OryxAlign, October 2023  n=1,411

Graham Smith

By Graham Smith