Client Confidentiality, Inadvertent Disclosure, Lawyerist Insider, Lawyerist.com©, Legal Ethics, Public Wi-Fi
If You Are Reading This Over Public Wi-Fi, You Are Probably Putting Your Clients’ Information At Risk, Lawyerist Insider, Lawyerist.com©
Most legal professionals know that conversations about a client’s case should never happen in a public place. Regardless, there are times when we seem to forget. If you have ever eaten in a popular restaurant close to the courthouse, then I will bet you’ve overheard trial and settlement strategy openly discussed within earshot during lunchtime. This post discusses what should be obvious – keep all confidential information about clients private, not public. -CCE
On several occasions, I have overheard lawyers talking very loudly on the phone to their clients. Coffee shops, of course, but courthouse bathroom stalls seem to be an especially popular place to hold attorney-client phone conversations at length and in great detail, quite loudly. While inadvertent disclosure does not void the privilege, talking loudly from a public bathroom stall is only ‘inadvertent disclosure’ in the sense that the lawyer is a dumbass.
Using public wi-fi without taking appropriate security precautions isn’t quite as bad as discussing settlement strategy in the bathroom at opposing counsel’s firm, but it’s not too far from it. A couple of weeks ago I was curious to see how easy it actually is to see what other people connected to a public wi-fi router are doing. I found out it is really easy. In a couple of minutes, I got explicit instructions that let me scan the network for other computers, pick one, and see the websites it was accessing. I didn’t even have to install anything on my MacBook.
It’s so easy that you could do it, too. It’s so easy that plenty of people are doing it, every day, probably on the public wi-fi networks you use.
Before you send or receive client information over a public wi-fi network (by email, for example, unless you know your email connection is secured), read Lisa’s post, ‘Beware Public Wi-Fi When Accessing Client Information.’ Don’t be the lawyer talking loudly in a public bathroom — er, wi-fi network.
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