Many attorneys are integrating at least some new technology into their practice. If they are doing it the right way, this can be a great tool. There are, however, a lot of pitfalls you need to look out for when integrating technology.
To sum it all up, if you are going to use technology in your practice, know what you’re doing. Ask the questions that need to be asked and ensure you actually understand the answers. Discuss your use of technology with your clients to ensure they are comfortable with how you are handling their confidential information. Discuss requirements with your state ethics bar. If used properly, technology can help our practices and, more importantly, our clients.
Confidentiality and the Cloud
We, as attorneys, are not the most technologically savvy people on earth. In large part because of that, it’s easy to tune out the details on the technology your using. On the other hand, in the eyes of the Bar, we are responsible for ensuring that our technology still maintains confidentiality for our clients. This means we are forced to do some investigation:
- Where exactly is our cloud server backing up to?
- Is it a reputable company that maintains confidentiality?
- Do they have the requisite requirements in place to prevent viruses or hackers from obtaining that information?
In other words, we typically have questions for our “cloud” server companies that most people aren’t asking. I’ve personally received some push back from some cloud servers for asking such detailed questions. The fact of the matter is that we have a duty to our clients to maintain their confidential information and if a company is not willing to answer the questions to ensure that, it probably is not a company for attorneys to be using.
Email is often used by a lot of attorneys and again, can be a great tool for our practices. In most cases, however, it should not be replacing other forms of contact.
Constant communication is important for a clear relationship between the attorney and client. Phone calls should still be answered; in-person meetings should still be attended. In my experience, the best practice is to ask the client how they would prefer I communicate with them. Based on that answer, I will use that communication method most often but impress the importance of multiple forms of communication. For example, when I’m in court all day, I may not be able to return a phone call right away. Instead, I might send that client a quick email letting them know I received their message and when they can expect to hear back from me.
Email can certainly help your practice but you may want to think twice before you send out that email and make sure it is not something that should be discussed in person and over the phone. On a side note, confidentiality may not be maintained through email communications. There are some free e-mail servers that many of our clients use that do not ensure confidentiality and will release a client’s emails if subpoenaed. This is a conversation you should have with each client to determine if email can be used as a safe method of communication.
Websites and Blogs
Websites and blogs can be a great tool for us to disseminate information to our current and prospective clients. Again, we need to be doing this the proper way.
If you are blogging about the law, you should ensure you have the required disclaimers associated with your blog. Make it clear an attorney-client relationship is not formed. Ensure that each reader understands that you are not giving legal advice. Remember, your posts can be accessed by people all over the world at any time in the future. Because of this, you may want to include a disclaimer that your posts are not necessarily the current law in any state.
If you have endorsements, reviews or testimonials anywhere on your website or blog, you need to ensure you have the required disclaimers associated with them. For example, if you are announcing recent verdicts you have won you may need to include a disclaimer that past results do not guarantee future results in any case. If you’re not sure what disclaimers you need, check with your local ethics hotline for some guidance.