How to Mitigate Risk When Communicating with Clients Via Email

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October 20, 2023

The days of snail mail transmitted by the US Postal Service have clearly given way to email.  However, some law firms are stuck in the past, refusing to fully transition to email.  Though email certainly poses unique risks, it is a much superior method of communication.  The proper risk management along with the industry’s best practice management software makes email communication that much safer for all parties, ensuring you can uphold your commitment to legal ethics and maintain client confidentiality.

Recognize the Security Challenges of Email

Send an email to a colleague, client, or a court and you’ll run the risk of the information being intercepted.  However, you can encrypt your email messages to ensure third parties cannot read their contents in the event of interception.  Furthermore, it is in your interest to provide your fellow attorneys, paralegals, and legal secretaries with cyber security training.  Reach out to a local IT managed services provider to coordinate cyber security training and your team will be much less likely to fall into the traps presented by email.  

Cyber security training provided on an annual basis reduces the chances of your team falling prey to phishing scams in which email users impersonate seemingly legitimate parties in an attempt to manipulate targeted individuals for personal gain.  Furthermore, your team will be much less likely to click and forward emails that contain malicious links and attachments.

Recognize Your Responsibilities in the Context of Email

Every law firm, regardless of its practice rea, is tasked with safeguarding digital information.  To be more specific, the American Bar Association’s Rule 1.6 Confidentiality of Information, states lawyers are to make all reasonable efforts to prevent unauthorized or inadvertent disclosure as well as the unauthorized access to information pertaining to a client’s representation.  Additional information about attorneys’ responsibilities to safeguarding client communications, especially in the context of email, is contained within ABA Formal Opinion 477R that details the securing of law firm communication in the context of protected client information.

Scan all Emails

Antivirus software that scans email messages for viruses and other threats is essential to safeguarding your law firm’s computers as well as your relationships with clients.  Implement antivirus software along with email encryption and rely on a VPN to transmit confidential information through a private network.  Once all of these protections are in place, you’ll rest easy knowing you have done your part to safeguard all email correspondence against threats posed by nefarious individuals who lack the introspective ability necessary for ethical considerations.

Storage and Access

Chances are your firm’s attorneys and paralegals use their smartphones and tablets to access emails, for document management and other duties.  These devices should also have the proper antivirus protections and also be handled appropriately.  The proper protocols must be in place to safeguard all such mobile devices.  This way, if a mobile device is lost or stolen, the firm’s IT specialists can follow protocols to remotely wipe its contents and prevent highly sensitive client information from entering the wrong hands.