Protecting clients from scams in the name of the law firm

I wouldn’t usually post a local news item on my blog, but this video is worth watching. An individual showed up to close on the house he was buying only to learn that he had wired $54,000 out to an email scammer posing as his real estate agent. Did the scammer somehow learn of the real estate contract and use the name of the agency? Some say the real estate agency has responsibility for not warning the person to look out for scammers. Real estate agencies are now, as a best practice, warning new customers that they will never be asked to wire money by the agency. The final observations on the video from a cybersecurity expert may not correctly state the law of liability, but they are food for thought for real estate agencies and law firms alike. It is important to protect confidential client information and email is increasingly problematic.

I think law firms who will never ask for electronic fund transfer should mention to new clients that they will not and law firms using electronic billing should communicate to new clients what the firm’s ebill will look like and to be alert for fake emails or fake ebills.

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Protecting clients from scams in the name of the law firm

Great Reads from April, 2017

Our OBA-MAP Reading Room for April, 2017 includes articles on non-digital time management, a new downloadable ABA checklist on ensuring your cybersecurity Reading room 2when using outside vendors, 7 Tricks To Free Up Space On Your iPhone, Technology vs. The Billable Hour, Choosing Your Law Firm’s Optimal Markets, legal jobs that might be lost to automation and Two Ways Lawyers Fail With Technology.

Great Reads from April, 2017

ABA Issues New Ethics Opinion on Encryption of Attorney-Client Email

The ABA has released Ethics Opinion 477 (May 11, 2017) on encryption of attorney-client email.

Those who do not want any rule requiring email encryption will rejoice if they skip down to the opinion’s conclusion and read:

  • “A lawyer generally may transmit information relating to the representation of a client over the Internet without violating the Model Rules of Professional Conduct where the lawyer has undertaken reasonable efforts to prevent inadvertent or unauthorized access. However, a lawyer may be required to take special security precautions to protect against the inadvertent or unauthorized disclosure of client information when required by an agreement with the client or by law, or when the nature of the information requires a higher degree of security.”

They would be rejoicing prematurely at the absence of the words “email encryption required.” The opinion notes that a hard and fast rule cannot be be crafted to apply to all situations, and therefore:

  • “A fact-based analysis means that particularly strong protective measures, like encryption, are warranted in some circumstances. Model Rule 1.4 may require a lawyer to discuss security safeguards with clients. Under certain circumstances, the lawyer may need to obtain informed consent from the client regarding whether to the use enhanced security measures …” Cybersecurity

  • “In contrast, for matters of normal or low sensitivity, standard security methods with low to reasonable costs to implement, may be sufficient to meet the reasonable-efforts standard to protect client information from inadvertent and unauthorized disclosure.”

My first reading is that this is along the line of my suggestion that a text to a client asking “Court starts in 5 minutes. Where are you?” is not a problem even if you are using unencrypted SMS texting because of the low sensitivity of the information, the relative security of texting and urgency overrule the extremely slight risk. See my article Email Attachments vs. Client Portals.

Among the things that lawyers should understand is how confidential client information is transmitted and stored. The opinion also suggests that every device and access point “should be evaluated for security compliance.” The law firm must have appropriate policies and procedures. They must train staff and supervise them on reasonably secure methods of communications.

Email keyOnly then can the lawyer make the decision that a particular electronic client communication need not be encrypted.

I have just read this today and may have additional thoughts upon reflection. But there is some language to quibble with:

“In the technological landscape of Opinion 99-413, and due to the reasonable expectations of privacy available to email communications at the time, unencrypted email posed no greater risk of interception or disclosure than other non-electronic forms of communication. This basic premise remains true today for routine communication with clients, presuming the lawyer has implemented basic and reasonably available methods of common electronic security measures.14 Thus, the use of unencrypted routine email generally remains an acceptable method of lawyer-client communication.”

To say that there is no greater risk of email interception and/or disclosure today than there was in 1999 is just nonfactual.

But overall, this opinion sends a clear signal that law firms have to pay attention to security of email and other client communication. Most law firms have already determined that is the correct policy. I still suggest lawyers also read Texas Legal Ethics Opinion 648 in addition to this opinion.

ABA Issues New Ethics Opinion on Encryption of Attorney-Client Email

Podcast – Running with the Machines: Artificial Intelligence in the Practice of Law

There’s a lot of discussion these days about Artificial Intelligence and how AI and robots are replacing many jobs. Lawyers are starting to listen and think about how this trend might impact them. For the near future, most of those who pay attention to such trends in legal tech generally say it won’t necessarily be technology replacing lawyers so much as lawyers who are more Andrew Arrudaempowered by technology replacing those who want to do things the old, traditional way.

In this episode of The Digital Edge Podcast – Running with the Machines: Artificial Intelligence in the Practice of Law, hosts Jim Calloway and Sharon Nelson talk to Andrew Arruda, Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder of the artificial intelligence company ROSS Intelligence, about how artificial intelligence assists lawyers, not replaces them. Our conversation includes what ROSS is, the biggest misconceptions surrounding AI, and the biggest challenges facing legal technology adoption in larger firms. In case you have not be paying any attention, ROSS is the legal version of Watson, IBM’s AI tool that is famous for easily beating the best Jeopardy human champions.

Don’t dismiss this podcast because you are unconcerned about AI. Understanding the next generation of tools that are making their way into law firms is important for every lawyer even if you have no intention of hiring ROSS as your new associate.

Podcast – Running with the Machines: Artificial Intelligence in the Practice of Law

iPhone users should take a look at the iPhone app, Workflow

Apple bought the Workflow app last week–and they apparently do not plan to kill it. As an iPhone user who was always going to get around to trying Workflow, I now think big things are ahead for this app and a lot of lawyers may want to try this now-free app.

See Apple bought the best utility app for the iPhone, Workflow.  From a 2014 review: “With only a half-hour of familiarity I was able to Workflow appset up a workflow that can find the locations of meetings I might have on any given day, pull images of the buildings they’re in from Google Street View, and email them all to me.”

If you are new to workflows or process automation, probably the best way to understand this is to look through these examples: 25 Coolest Things Apple’s Workflow App Can Do.  Number 4 is how to easily create those text-on-picture graphics we see circulating as social media memes using your own pictures and the text you want.

The above included several things I didn’t know how to do, although I assumed that they were “doable” with some research. The list above has many fun and useful things to do on your iPhone, like automatically texting your spouse the time you will be home. But it is also good experience for lawyers as developing law office workflow automation is something lawyers will be doing more, so some experience is good.

There are also many good reviews of Workflow in the iTunes store.

iPhone users should take a look at the iPhone app, Workflow

 The TECHSHOW Edition of Law Practice Magazine

It is the week of ABA TECHSHOW and a good way to get warmed up is to check out the TECHSHOW edition of Law Practice Magazine.

LPMAGMarch2017CoverThe cover story is A Golden Age of Legal Tech Start-Ups by Bob Ambrogi. Other features cover topics from legal incubators to e-signatures. Columns include my observations on Managing the Robots, Tom Mighell on the Battle of the Workplace Messaging Apps, Pete Roberts on A ‘Periodic Table’ of Law Firm Profitability for Small Firms and Sharon Nelson and John W. Simek on Securing Your Law Firm’s Website: A Critical Cybersecurity Task.

If you think managing all of the lawyers and staff in a law firm is a challenge, just wait for that day (coming sooner than you think) when you also have to manage the robots working for your law firm. Despite the cool graphic the magazine production team found to illustrate Managing the Robots, I don’t think we are likely to see humanoid robots in law firms anytime soon. But I do think we are about to see more and more automated processes powered by smart technology systems. This brings up many challenges for firms that are used to supervising people as opposed to perfecting and managing automated processes.

Which partner or partners try to lay claim to the machine-generated profits will just be the first (and loudest) of these issues.

I hope to see you at ABA TECHSHOW this week.

 

 The TECHSHOW Edition of Law Practice Magazine

Suggested Articles and Posts from January and February in the Reading Room

Our monthly Reading Room features reading suggestions for you from January and February, 2017 which cover a wide range of topics for the forward-thinking lawyer. Topics include “white dwarf law firms,” the Smart Person’s Guide to Apple’s iCloud Keychain, the ABC’s of Marketing and Business Development for Lawyers, dictation methods on the iPhone, blockchain for lawyers, a  new JP Reading RoomMorgan AI software program that saves 360,000 hours of staff and lawyer time,  Six Fundamentals For Handling Client Confidences, the Top Twenty-Two Most Interesting e-Discovery Opinions of 2016 and How An Introvert Can Build A Thriving Practice.

Visit our January 2017 Reading Room and our February 2017 Reading Room.

Suggested Articles and Posts from January and February in the Reading Room