Client confidentiality is important in the legal profession. The American Bar Association rules prevent a lawyer from revealing information about her representation of a client unless the client consents to the disclosure. Keeping client information confidential encourages clients to speak openly and honestly to their attorneys. Ethical rules of the legal profession require lawyers to act competently to safeguard client information. Maintaining client confidentiality requires diligence and care.
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Train your staff in ethics so they understand the same professional rules about confidentiality that you were taught in law school. The non-lawyer staff members in your office -- file clerks, computer professionals and legal secretaries -- who deal with confidential client information may not understand the ethical requirements. Ensure that all staff members who have access to client information understand the importance of protecting client confidentiality and know how to preserve it.
Install antivirus and antispyware software and maintain a firewall network on every machine that can access client information. Update the software frequently.
Clear your desk of confidential information before you meet with clients. Follow a "clean desk" policy to avoid the chance that one client could read another client's file or your notes about another case.
Be constantly aware of your surroundings when talking to clients. With mobile technology, you can talk to them virtually anywhere: in the car, on the street and in restaurants and other public locations. When you take a client call via speakerphone, inform the client if others are in the room to alert them not to disclose confidential information in front of others.
Tips and warnings
- Install a password-protected screen saver on your laptop to reduce the risk that someone will see confidential client information when you step away from your desk.
- Maintain your vigilance even after you no longer represent the client. Remember, your duty of confidentiality extends after your representation ends, and only the former client can waive the obligation.
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