The importance of the confidentiality of client information is and should be sacrosanct with every lawyer. Attorneys are tasked with doing everything in their power to protect their client data. This is no more important nowadays with online data and communications.
One of the easiest ways for someone to breach client confidentiality is to attack online communications such as email and texts.
As an ethical lawyer, encryption is your best friend when it comes to protecting the confidentiality of online communication. Just like you would not leave your office door open while you are interviewing a client, neither would you send and/or receive online communication that is not robustly encrypted. This is so important that the American Bar Association has issued a formal opinion that requires lawyers to warn clients about the risk of sending/receiving electronic communications via a computer or device where some other third-party might have access to it. For example, if a client, who is at work, uses their work computer to communicate with their attorney, that employer has every legal right to review that email and the confidential information it may obtain.
So, what can an attorney do to secure email with clients. There are companies that offer third-party encryption services:
- Cloudstar - Cloudstar is an international company with five data centers in the United States alone. The company offers a service to exchange secure email with anyone, even with people outside of your organization. They offer direct to inbox encryption as well as secure portal encryption where a client can visit a secure website to view communication or files.
- ShareFile - ShareFile is similar to Cloudstar. However, ShareFile has a plug-in for Microsoft Outlook where you can safely encrypt emails and send and receive encrypted files right from your Outlook inbox. ShareFile also offers mobile apps for all of the popular smartphones and smart-devices where secure email and files can be sent between different devices without issues.
It is becoming more and more common for lawyers to communicate with their clients via text as opposed to email. The same encryption concerns are present and the same best practices should be followed. There are free texting apps that are secure: Signal, Wickr and WhatsApp.
Voice and Video Calls
Yes, even voicemails and video calls can sometimes be hacked if certain protections are not taken. If using an iPhone or iPad, then secure video conferences can be done using Facetime. Again, the company Signal has offered secure, encrypted voice calls and video conferencing since 2014. Further, WhatsApp now offers secure voice and video services to its over a billion users.
The takeaway should be that there are more than enough options in this marketplace for a smart attorney to ensure that communication with their clients, in whatever form, is always secured and confidential.