Sunday, January 20, 2008

Unsecure Law Office Emails - Not the Only Way to Talk to Clients Online

Ross Kodner of Ross Ipsa Loquitur posted sections of an interview with his state’s bar journal about the state of legal technology. Predictably, the question of security in legal technology came up here.

As Kodner discusses, email communications are unsecure and to help with the potential ethics violations, he recommends that attorneys let their clients know from the beginning that email is unsecure. This is a good practice tip for attorneys no matter how much technology they use in their day to day practice.

Even though I communicate with my clients through my secure website only, there occasionally are clients who will find my email address and email me rather than use the website interface. When this happens, I make a point of telling them that email is unencrypted and therefore not as secure as my website where, like online banking, they can have more options of communicating with me than in an unsecure email. Once they understand this, most clients will go to the virtual office.

The trend with law office websites is still the “contact us” form that is sent by unencrypted email and gives the client a chance to disclose their legal issues to the attorney or whoever is answering the law office’s incoming email. The concern from my perspective is that this form of unsecure communication will be confused with my secure virtual website and the methods that the vlo technology uses to protect the client’s information.

Not everyone in the legal profession can be computer experts or technology buffs in addition to successful attorneys. If legal professionals understood the basics, that there are forms of electronic communication that are more secure than email and that these methods were easy to use and required little money and energy, then they might have more confidence in integrating (or hiring someone to integrate) that form of communication into their practices for the benefit of their professional development.

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