Start by warning clients that some of the information they will be exchanging with you is confidential and protected by the attorney-client privilege and that, if an email with such information falls into the wrong hands, that privilege could be jeopardized.
Then describe your email policy requirements, which should include:
1. Set up a separate email account, with a password known only to the client, to be used exclusively for communicating with the law firm. Consider using this question and answer format to make your reasons clear:
Q: Why should I create a separate email account only for the purpose of communicating with the law firm?
A: It is too easy to jeopardize the confidentiality of information when using a “regular” email account. Spouses may know or guess passwords. It is easy to inadvertently send private information intended for an attorney to another recipient or, even worse, hit the “reply to all” button when working in the wrong screen.
2. Save emails and attachments in a password-protected file. Tell your clients how they should save anything received from you on their hard drives in a separate, protected location. You may need to provide specific instructions on how to do this.
3. Explain how communications will be encrypted. You should be using commercial or shareware products to encrypt the data you store on your law firm’s hard drive. Explain how this works in your policy:
We use _ _[name]_ _ encryption software for all client emails. _ _[It is not necessary to do anything special to read the e-mail/my assistant]_ _, _ _[name, will send an encryption key to set up a secure email account]_ _, but should it be intercepted in cyberspace, the information should be unintelligible to third parties.
4. Safeguard printouts. Tell clients to be as careful with printouts of emails to and from your firm as they would be with any written correspondence. For example,
File all communications to and from _ _[name of law firm]_ _ in a secure place where children and other members of the household cannot get access to them.
5. Warn your client against using their workplace computer. Make sure that your policy expressly states that clients should not use their computer at work to write to you:
Do not use an employer’s computer to communicate with_ _ _[name of law firm]_ _, as such communications may not be protected by the attorney-client privilege.
Send a letter with your email policy to all clients. Invite them to ask any questions they may have or to share any concerns.
Even if your client is unlikely to use electronic communication, send this policy anyway because it’s always possible that they will ask a family member to email you on their behalf.
Get sample language for all of your client communications from initial contact and retention to the conclusion of a case in CEB’s California Client Communications Manual: Sample Letters and Forms.
Other CEBblog™ posts you may find useful:
- You Should Have a Client File Retention Policy: Here’s a Sample
- What to Tell a Client When the Case Lacks Merit
- Have You Looked at Your Email Disclaimer Lately?
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