Time to bail on e-mail? The ABA weighs in…

In the mid 1800’s, as accounts vary, the idea for the telephone was hatched, and communication was forever changed. In theory, you were instantly able to communicate with whoever you wanted to communicate with. It was the epitome of instant connection that would ultimately evolve into the cell phones we have today. However, along came email. The concept of email had been around for many years but it was not until the mid 90’s that email became a household term.

Email changed the landscape in the same way that the telephone did. It provided instant connection to others but the beauty was that it only required reading and typing, and therefore could be executed in many more situation than a phone call. Email has quite simply become the standard for communication over the past decade. That is none more apparent than in the legal industry.

For years lawyers have used email as their main method for communication with clients…and rightfully so. It is fast, efficient, and documented. It allows lawyers to interact with their clients more frequently and easier than ever before. However, there has always been a problem with security, it is just that no one ever talked about it…until now.

Finally, after years of having to tip toe around the communication of confidential information over email, the ABA has weighed in and agreed that, in short, communicating over email may not be the best idea. The instances which may cause that data to be compromised are endless, but the ABA points out a few that stand out, particularly employees sending emails from work computers with employer regulations stating they have full access to employee’s emails from that computer.

Read the ABA Formal Opinion Article on E-mail Communication (PDF)

Needless to say, communicating via email is easy, but it has always had its security concerns. The point is, it should certainly not be the standard of communication for lwayers! Communications with clients must be kept completely confidential, there can be no questions. The duty of a lawyer to communicate confidentially has always been a most cherished rule of the legal profession and is codified in the Rules of Professional Conduct. The advent of email, just like the telephone, has given rise to many other alternatives that are far easier to use and significantly more secure.

It is time for lawyers to migrate to safe and secure programs that allow them to manage communications with their clients and other employees as well. There are applications available right now that make it easy for law firms to manage all communications with clients within the secure environment of the program itself. The applications are usually built by brilliant software developers and boast amazing security credentials. With a little research, lawyers can easily find a program that will meet their security concerns and provide them with much more secure methods of communication than email.

Like the telephone, email was a monumental invention and gave rise to other ideas that expanded on email and made it better. Practice management programs with client communication features built in is essentially one of those evolutions and needs to be considered by all lawyers. With the ABA no raising its voice and letting lawyers know that email may not be the best way to communicate with clients, the time to look into alternatives is now, before it is too late!

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