By Cynthia Sharp, JD, LLM
You can’t control a natural disaster, but you can control how you prepare. Consider today’s legal practice management systems that make it easy to store and manage files, client information, and everything else that’s critical to running your practice, securely in the cloud. This technology is affordable and accessible. (In fact, it’s easy to get a free trial.) However, if you avoid it, it could be argued that you didn’t take reasonable precautions to protect your clients in the event of a natural disaster like Hurricane Florence. Meaning, you could end up violating one or more rules of professional conduct like:
- Model Rule 1.1 which addresses competence. Comment 8 has been adopted by a majority of the states and, in essence, it requires lawyers to stay on top of changes in the law and its practice, including the benefits and risks associated with relevant technology.
- Model Rule 1.3 which addresses diligence. It states that, regardless of direct opposition, obstruction or personal inconvenience, you’re going to take whatever lawful and ethical measures are required to serve your client.
- Model Rule 1.15 which addresses safekeeping of client property. While it mostly addresses money, this rule does note that property other than funds should be appropriately safeguarded. This could include the critical information that is included in legal files.
Model Rule 1.6 which addresses confidentiality, says that a lawyer shall make reasonable effort to prevent the inadvertent or unauthorized disclosure of client information. If you store your confidential files to a secure cloud-based practice management system and send clients originals for safekeeping, you should be meeting this standard.
- Model Rule 1.18 which addresses duties to prospective clients. If you met with potential clients a week before your law firm floats away and you haven’t stored their contact information and the outcome of these meetings in the cloud, you won’t have documentation of their status. You’ll be left open to a complaint from a client who mistakenly assumed you were representing them, unless you have proof otherwise.
Then there’s the resolution adopted by the American Bar Association House of Delegates which urges lawyers to “regularly assess their practice environment to identify and address risks that arise from any natural or manmade disaster that may compromise their ability to diligently and competently protect their clients’ interests, and maintain the security of their clients’ property.”
By using cloud-based law practice management to support your day-to-day operations, it could be argued that you have made reasonable effort to comply with this resolution while mitigating the issues posed by the ethics rules I’ve outlined above.
Find out all the benefits of cloud-based practice management in Cloud Computing for Small Law Firms.
About the author
Cynthia Sharp is a business development strategist and veteran attorney who helps motivate attorneys to generate more revenue for their law firms through her coaching business, The Sharper Lawyer.