Simply put, the attorney-client privilege means what is said to a lawyer is confidential. It’s a privilege that belongs to the client and covers all confidential communications by the client. Today the advances in information technology have greatly complicated the protection of this privileged attorney-client communications—whether in the form of basic day-to-day correspondence or more in-depth documentation exchange.
Email communication, often in the form of lengthy email “strings,” has become a large part of business communications. These email strings are often forwarded to numerous recipients with just one click of a mouse. This greatly decreases the security of attorney-client communication since many times the information is being sent to third parties, opposing council, and other outside entities.
The resulting risks are actually quite significant and can be detrimental to the overall legal process, regardless of the legal task at hand. Whether you’re communicating directly with your client, corresponding with opposing counsel, or working with other third-party professionals, the need to secure your email messages is crucial.
Communicating with Your Clients
As an attorney, you communicate with your clients on a daily basis. And with the use of email, that correspondence is much easier and more convenient than phone calls and face-to-face meetings. Today it has become routine for attorneys to place a footer on their emails that denotes the content as privileged and requests unintended recipients to destroy and/or return electronic documents without reading them. But these footers are usually quite small in print and do little or nothing to alert a client that forwarding them or including them in an email string will actually lose the effectiveness of their attorney-client privilege. Given the many variables associated with attorney-client communications, it’s imperative to protect your emails so that you can have confidence when communicating sensitive information. Whether you’re providing specific figures associated with negotiation leverage, conveying details about new contracts, or laying the groundwork for a future start up business, your main goal should always be to exhibit professional ethics with your clients.
Communicating with Opposing Counsel
The prevalence of mobile devices has made email between opposing counsel extremely common. Often times an actual conversation with opposing counsel just doesn’t happen—even though a simple phone call is a more efficient way to resolve an issue. Today emails are common practice at most firms, in spite of the fact that what is written in them is set in stone. Given the risks involved when communicating with your client’s opponent, using an encrypted email system provides a much-needed level of security that can help safeguard both you and your client form potential motions down the road.
Communicating with Third-Party Professionals
Dealing with legal issues often involves the need for professional knowledge and advice, whether you require tax, valuation, or medical expertise. Gaining the professional opinion of others is often paramount to the success of a case. And similar to communicating with your clients or opposing counsel, the need for secure email communications is at the forefront. Regardless of the level or amount of third-party expertise needed, ensuring that your emails are secure and private is certainly a step in the right direction.
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