Ethical Technology Use

The Paralegal Resource
December 3, 2013 — 998 views  
Become a Bronze Member for monthly eNewsletter, articles, and white papers.

The modern practice of law is rapidly moving to an online base. A majority of the lawyers today have completely made the shift from a pen and legal pad to virtually paperless offices. Technology has had a great impact on the way that lawyers are now functioning. It allows an attorney to be completely mobile and have all valuable information at their fingertips, irrespective of time and place. It provides for an entirely electronic-based law practice. However, while technology is assisting the development of law practice, this same technology can open up a new dimension of risk that is related to client data security, confidentiality, and privacy.

The Lows of Technology

It has become necessary for attorneys to weigh out the benefits that technology provides with the harm that it can cause. They have a constant ethical responsibility of protecting a client’s files and records, and to represent them effectively while they also simultaneously have to safeguard their privacy. Making ethical use of technology such as wireless communications, USB pen drives, smart phones, and cloud computing provides a great risk to undermine such ethical responsibility. The FBI have stated that cyber-attacks directed towards law firms are on the rise, and since 2009 over 80 major U.S law firms’ systems have been hacked. It is clear that every attorney and his office needs to show due diligence for ethical use of technology.

Lawyers’ Ethical Duty

It is the responsibility of lawyers to ensure that they have the best protection installed on all technological equipment for reasonable protection. Firewalls, password protections, encryptions and antivirus measures should be installed and periodically reviewed to guarantee the security and confidentiality of a client’s information. An attorney is required to have adequate and satisfactory knowledge about the best technical methods to safeguard their clients’ information. If they do not, they must maintain an employee or expert consultant who does have expert competence in such a field. This is their ethical responsibility to ensure privacy and confidentiality.

Thumb drives have the potential to carry around the entire information of your firm in a small, easy-to-use drive. Even though these may be extremely beneficial, they are also very easy to lose. Losing such important information can spell disaster to confidentiality and ethical responsibilities. Ensuring that data is encrypted and the drive is meant for only office use is a lawyer’s responsibility. The same rules applies while sending emails and uploading information onto an internet cloud. A lawyer needs to ensure that there is satisfactory protection of all information on the internet.

Security inside the Office

Access to information in a law firm must have necessary security with password protection and different clearance levels for different staff to ensure that there is absolutely no snooping and unauthorized access to information. Metadata should be especially safeguarded so that the confidentiality of all clients is guaranteed. The core challenge for lawyers while they establish an information security program is to evaluate and decide what level of security measures is needed, followed by appropriate implementation of these measures. Determining what measures are reasonable and competent for the office is an important step. Taking note of other fields where client confidentiality processes are implemented, such as hospitals or financial institutions, can be helpful.

Technology can be a two-edged sword and necessary precautions need to be met to ensure that there is ethical responsibility played out from the part of a lawyer to ensure client confidentiality.

The Paralegal Resource