Client Confidentality, Email Address, Emails, Lawyerist Blog, Legal Ethics, Rules of Professional Responsibility, Sam Glover
Don’t CC Clients on Emails, by Sam Glover, Lawyerist Blog
This one seems like a no-brainer, but I suspect many lawyers and paralegals alike have not realized the danger in this practice. -CCE
As a general rule, you should not CC your clients on emails.
First, because it gives every other recipient a chance to communicate directly with your client. In fact, it looks like an invitation to do so. Opposing counsel should know better, but even they might use Reply All accidentally, accidentally-on-purpose, or maybe even intending — albeit misguidedly — to be helpful.
In the case of recipients who are not bound by the rules of professional responsibility, you can hardly be surprised if they take the inclusion of your client’s email address as an invitation to keep them in the conversation or communicate with them directly. And remember that the recipient might forward your email, giving anyone not already included the chance to do so. This could be harmless if your email is related to a friendly business transaction. It could also be disastrous.
Don’t forget that clients can make mistakes, too. Even if you BCC your client to avoid the above problems, it could be your client who uses Reply All.
Second, part of your job is to counsel your client, which is difficult to do without providing at least a sentence or two of summary or context or explanation. If all you do is CC your client on every email (or forward every email with little more than “FYI”), you are missing a chance to do your job.
The better practice is usually to wait until the end of the discussion (or at least a decision point), so you can bring your client up to speed with a brief summary, some context, your analysis, the options you need to discuss, etc. Go ahead and include all the back-and-forth if you like, but don’t just hand it off. It is safe to assume given the fact of your representation that your client wants you to use your legal acumen to help them understand what is going on.
So don’t CC your client. There are certainly some exceptions to this ‘rule,’ or times when it doesn’t really matter. But at a minimum you should think twice before adding your client to the CC or BCC field of an email you are about to send.
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