You need to know this stuff!
ABA Ethics Opinion 99-413 was issued in 1999. We are now in 2017 and the rules have changed. In general, the new Opinion 99-477 still allows lawyers to use unencrypted email when communicating routinely with clients. Law Firms are targets for hacking because they obtain, store and use highly sensitive information about their clients.
In “highly sensitive industries such as industrial designs, mergers and acquisitions of trade secrets and industries like healthcare, banking, defense or education, may present a higher risk of data theft.”* If your practice is in any of these fields you need to address more secure communication procedures.
Opinion 477 targets the Firm’s responsibility to ensure the confidentiality of your client’s information and data using “reasonable efforts”. What constitutes reasonable efforts is not a hard-and-fast rule. It is contingent upon a set of factors:
These factors include:
1. The sensitivity of the information.
2. The likelihood of disclosure if additional safeguards are not employed.
3. The cost of employing additional safeguards.
4. The difficulty of implementing the safeguards.
5. The extent to which the safeguards adversely affect the lawyer’s ability to represent clients (e.g., by making a device or important piece of software excessively difficult to use).
What should you do?
1. Talk with your IT people about using encrypted emails and its ramifications.
2. Be careful about opening attachments. They often contain viruses. If you are not expecting an attachment, do not open it. Contact the sender and make sure it is legitimate before opening.
3. Create a secure portal to share documents. Find one that works with your practice management software. Remember that Free is not always better.
Crosspointe Consulting Group, LLC can help you identify secure ways of sharing information with your internal staff as well as external clients.Call us at
877-357-0555 or write to us as firstname.lastname@example.org to help you find the best way for your firm to communicate safely and securely with your clients.