E-mail is a wonderfully fast and efficient way for attorneys and their clients to communicate and transmit information. But with this new technology comes new risks and the necessity to educate your clients on e-mail security.
Protecting communications, particularly e-mail messages, may not be intuitive to your clients. That’s why you should have a letter on electronic correspondence that you give to all current and potential clients. This letter should give your client an understanding of the issues involved with e-mail communication and the tools to ensure that all communications between you and your client stay confidential or privileged.
Here are the basic tips to give your client:
- Open a separate e-mail account for attorney-client communications. Advise your client to set up a separate e-mail account, with a secure password known only to the client, to be used exclusively for communicating with you and your law firm. Explain that it’s too easy to jeopardize the confidentiality of his or her information when using a “regular” e-mail account. For example, the client may inadvertently send private information intended for the attorney to another recipient or, even worse, hit the “reply to all” button when working in the wrong screen.
- Save e-mails and attachments in a password-protected file. Explain to the client that there are commercial and shareware products for encrypting data stored on the hard drive. You may also want to tell the client that you will use encryption software for all your client e-mails.
- Secure printouts of e-mails. Advise your client to put any printouts of e-mail communications with you or your law firm in a secure place where other members of the household can’t get access to them.
- Don’t use your employer’s computer. If your client has access to the Internet at work, advise him or her not to use the employer’s computer to communicate with you because such communications may not be protected by the attorney-client privilege.
Of course, attorneys should also comply with these steps and put in place office policies and procedures on electronic correspondence.
For a sample client letter on electronic correspondence, get CEB’s California Client Communications Manual: Sample Letters and Forms. This book is full of practical advice and sample forms; a must-have for new attorneys and attorneys in a solo or small firm practice.
Other CEB blog posts you many find interesting:
- Why Are Client Communications So Important?
- Nice to Meet You: Getting Your First Client Contact Right
- Emails Sent from Workplace Computers Are Neither Private nor Privileged
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