Ethical for Lawyers
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It’s an important decision that you’ll need to get right.
Undoubtedly, the cloud has revolutionized the way we store, share, and backup files. To many business owners, it presents benefits never before experienced and advanced technology that improves the way they run their companies and serve their customers. But while all of us realize how useful the cloud is, as a lawyer your business has a unique set of regulations and ethics and requires you to store a large amount of confidential information. Using the cloud means that your files will be living on a server in remote location and not within the walls of your business. So the question is, is it ethical for you to use the cloud?
In most cases, yes
While there is a lot of conversation about the cloud within the industry, using this type of computing is becoming more and more popular. The American Bar Association has researched the topic among the bar associations in the United States and many of them agree that when used with “reasonable care”, the cloud is ethical. Depending on which state you practice law in, the ABA suggests that before transitioning to the cloud for your firm, you consider several factors. Let’s take a look.
Choosing a vendor
As you can imagine, more and more cloud service providers are popping up everyday. And for anyone, lawyer or not, who isn’t familiar with the cloud, it may be daunting to choose a vendor. The decision is not to be taken lightly of course, so it’s best to do your homework and read any reviews of each provider. Ask for recommendations and go over the service agreement with a fine tooth comb. Some of the key considerations you’ll want to take into account are security and protection from loss or damage. Also you’ll want to choose a provider that specifies just where the files are stored, how often they are backed up, and that you explicitly own your data.
Following new industry standards
Although there is mixed opinion about cloud computing among different bar associations in the US, the Legal Cloud Computing Association has established standards and guidelines for lawyers to follow to ensure their ethical and legal obligations.
If you’re considering using the cloud for your practice, take some time to review their set of standards, it can only help you. Their published guide discusses the use of the cloud in depth and covers everything from the location and redundancy of data to authentication protocols, limitations of third-party access, ownership of data, the handling of data breaches, disaster recovery, and additional details needed to choose the right vendor and level of service.
Some state bar associations have said that it’s not necessary for an attorney to tell their clients that they are storing data in the cloud. This is something that, depending on your jurisdiction, is left up to your discretion. If you think about it, do businesses you use tell you where your data, whether it’s orders from Amazon or something else, are stored? For the most part, it’s recommended only when you feel it is necessary.
There’s no doubt as to the efficiency and benefits of the cloud, and as our world continues to evolve digitally, these and other technological advances will become more prevalent and available. As attorneys, the key thing to be cognizant of is safeguarding your client’s confidential files. Consider these tips before enlisting the services of a vendor.