Legal ethics you learned in law school haven’t changed in their nature or intent for many decades, but recent changes in the legal industry mean that those same legal practices have to be applied differently in response to new, developing technological situations.
The information age is changing the way lawyers approach many areas of their legal practice, including how to uphold ethics surrounding client information and privilege. Cybertechnology, data security, and breaches of information all need to be actively monitored as we continue advancing into the digital realm. The competent and reasonable measures taken in the past to protect those fundamentals are not as full-proof, or even relevant, by today’s standards. While the ethics behind recent changes are still the same, how they need to be upheld is not!
Safeguard all Data
As an attorney, you are obligated to safeguard all data, digital and otherwise. Recent amendments to ABA's Model Rules of Professional Conduct include protecting information, in every form, as part of a lawyers basic competency obligations. There is a need for practitioners of law to stay informed and up-to-date on cybertechnology trends and how information can be exchanged.
- Model Rule 1.1: Competence. A lawyer shall provide competent representation to a client. Competence includes keeping abreast of the benefits and risks associated with relevant technology. This amendment was accepted in 2012.
- Model Rule 1.4: Communications. Amended in 2012 to include a lawyer shall inform their client of any potential compromise involving their confidential or personal information.
Adopt Information Security Measures
Law firms need to adopt risk-based information security measures suitable to the demands of their office and the level of sensitivity presented by the information being handled. Information security measures are not "set-and-forget" tools. To be effective, careful attention is required to monitor and maintain security protocols.
Invest in continuous training and observation to ensure the security of information related to the people, policies, and privileges behind it.
Reasonable Safeguards are Not Absolute
Security of information is a fine balancing act. Highly technical security can be difficult to use, requiring specialized training and expertise. User-friendly cybersecurity options may be easier on the eyes and user, but often allow for greater insecurity.
However, the amendments made in 2012 to Model Rule 1.6: Confidentiality of Information allow for lawyers to provide reasonable safeguards for the protection of information, not absolute assurances. More commonly, law firms are outsourcing their cybersecurity needs to legal logistics providers, like First Legal, to ensure they stay compliant with current legal ethics and provide reasonable safeguards for their client’s information.
Cybersecurity breaches can cause substantial financial losses to a law firm and exposure to potential lawsuits. Now is the time to review your firm’s cybersecurity policies and strategies to make sure they meet up to today’s standards. For ease of mind, connect with a legal logistics provider, like First Legal, that can guarantee you’re cybersecurity measures add up to ensure a reasonable and competent level of ethical legal practices.