Lawyers, Tech, & Ethical Compliance: What You Need to Know

Mar 12, 2018 | Attorney Resources, Blog, Professional Ethics for Lawyers, Resources, Social Media

Last week, Megan Zavieh was interviewed by Clio while attending the ABA TECHSHOW. You can watch the interview in its entirety by clicking here. Below, you can read Megan’s suggestions on lawyers, tech, and ethical compliance. If you have questions or if you need help with planning your defense, contact Zavieh Law.

The infiltration of the legal industry by technology is undeniable.  At ABA TECHSHOW in Chicago, I sat down with Clio’s Teresa Matich to talk about some of the biggest issues lawyers must consider when dealing with tech.

Every firm should start putting together a checklist of the biggest technology issues.  The purpose of the list is to make sure that the biggest areas of risk in technology are mitigated.  The three biggest categories for this are:

  • Online behavior. Every lawyer in your firm must behave appropriately online, which primarily means knowing the rules related to social media and online disclosure of information and remaining in ethical compliance.  This includes client confidentiality concerns, respect to the courts, and displaying honesty and integrity.
  • Secure use of technology. Law firms need to make sure they’re operating securely.  This includes secure use of wifi (most likely with a VPN), privacy of data used by your own firm, and secure communication with clients.
  • Preservation of evidence. Every lawyer should understand the duties to preserve and methods of accomplishing preservation of electronic evidence.

What Is The Biggest Mistake Lawyers Make?

The biggest mistakes lawyers make involve social media.  There are so many examples of lawyers violating ethics rules as a result of disclosures on social media.  Another huge source of error is reckless use of technology without concern for security.

What Should a Lawyer Do If They’re Accused of Malpractice?

Of course, we hope all lawyers steer clear of malpractice, but claims do happen.  If you find yourself on the wrong end of a malpractice claim, be sure to first notify your insurance carrier.  Then, mitigate the damage.  When the claim is being handled, evaluate what went wrong and fix it to make sure the mistake is not repeated.

Using the Right Tools to Maintain Ethical Compliance

Speaking of avoiding errors, there are tools available to help ensure ethical compliance.

  • Calendaring tools are critical, whether you use something as simple as a Google calendar with ticklers set up or something more sophisticated like Court Rules integrated with Clio, Basecamp with app and email reminders, or online schedulers like Acuity or TimeTrade that send reminder emails.
  • Communication with clients is critical to ethical compliance, as a great many ethics complaints begin with the client feeling they are not receiving sufficient communication from their lawyer. Online portals allow clients to log in and see their case in progress, automated status updates allow more communication, and scheduling regular emails in your email software to keep your clients up to date are very useful.
  • Billing through automated tools is also very helpful to maintain ethical compliance. Tech-driven billing tends to be more accurate and more regularly provided. Both of these are important to fulfilling your ethical duties.  Billing is available through practice management software such as Clio.

When you search for a tech tool to help in your practice, keep in mind that ethical compliance is your obligation, not the company’s.  You simply cannot outsource the responsibility.  So, be sure to ask the key question of where the company stores the data you input into it.  Sensitive information you input into the app by virtue of using it must be securely stored .  Ethics opinions permitting cloud computing require that the lawyer take reasonable steps (such as asking the question) to ensure that the data is held in a secure fashion.