Creating access control “Chinese walls” in your office


What do you do when your firm is acting for both sides on a deal or in a dispute?

How do you reassure your clients that their information is secure and there is no chance the other side will discover confidential data?


This is a situation which faces many law firms – and also VCs, investment banks, private equity and property firms.


Their day to day business models mean their teams are constantly doing deals, due diligence and in some cases handling disputes.


In these situations, companies put up “Chinese Walls” to ensure staff working on one side of the deal aren’t privy to the information of the other side, who happen to be their colleagues.


This is designed to provide both clients with the assurance there is no collusion, conflict of interest and that there is no way their confidentiality could be breached.


One way to reassure your clients this can’t happen, and that their information remains confidential is to PROVE that you are restricting PHYSICAL access as well.


The basic way of doing this is through a lock and key, where only those with a key can get into the office where confidential information is stored. However, a key doesn’t necessarily provide guaranteed security, it may not be practical for projects with lots of people requiring access, nor does it provide an audit trail of who has gained access and when.


My company Welcome Gate frequently gets calls from law firms and other professional services organisations asking for a more sophisticated solution.


This is where electronic access control comes in; these systems regulate who is allowed where and when so that only approved individuals are allowed into particular areas.


The first step is to review your floor plans, to determine the most logical locations for the different project teams. However, we understand that your priority also needs to be running your firm, and allowing free flow of your staff around your offices.


Once we have advised on suitable locations, your access control system will be reconfigured. Groups will be set up within it for the different teams, and people will be allocated to those groups, so only they have access to a particular part of the office.


The final step is to set up alerts and triggers so that if someone does stray into a part of the office they shouldn’t, the project leader will be informed of the actual or attempted breach of access.


This provides confidence that the system is working continuously in the background and will proactively tell you if any issues arise in your set up.


This might sound complicated and expensive to set up, but in reality your existing security system may already possess this functionality.


The fact that your security system can give you the tools to provide clients with the peace of mind that their professional advisors are taking all possible steps to keep their information safe and secure. All this enables professional services firms to maximise your revenues by acting for both sides of a transaction.