Login | January 20, 2019

ABA says time to stop using unsecure email for client communications

Technology for Lawyers

Published: March 30, 2018

The American Bar Association’s tech writers are generally more on top of tech trends than one might think. ABA Formal Opinion 477, released late last year, states the now-obvious: unencrypted email is inherently un-secure, and particularly for client confidential conversations and data sharing.

In fact, we could go so far as to say that unencrypted email is now so evidently un-secure that continuing to use it might be an ethics violation. As they say, at this point sending an email is basically the equivalent of posting your message on the window of your office for everyone to see. If the email contains confidential information, you are exposing that information to the world. Not a good look.

The ABA opinion states that email encryption should be considered on a case-by-case basis, but personally I think this should go further.

First, encrypt all of your email.

Then implement email alternatives as a permanent solution to this problem.

So, what to do?

If you are in a firm that has practice management software, most of those setups already have the answer: the secure client portal. This is encrypted and safe, and is of the nature of a conversation, rather than the clunky back-and-forth of emails.

If you don’t have practice management software with client portals, there are several secure solutions. The most recognizable of these solutions is the Dropbox/ Box universe.

These are small apps that contain documents that can be worked on by multiple parties. The small cost for creating an encrypted environment in these apps is worth it. Add in two-step authentication to be even safer.

There are numerous apps in the world of multi-access cloud storage. Dropbox may not be the best, but feel free to do your research.

There are also stand-alone secure client portals out there, including Zendesk, onehub, ShareFile, Huddle, and more.

Also—make sure that the type of preferred communication between the lawyer and the client is spelled out in the retainer agreement. That prevents later headaches and forces the client to get up to speed on this technology, which helps protect everyone.