Despite many law firms reopening their doors after the COVID-19 pandemic, they are bound by specific rules and professional obligations whenever they practice law in a virtual setting.
Back in March, the American Bar Association Standing Committee on Ethics and Professional Responsibility released Formal Opinion 498 outlining requirements to remind lawyers that they must maintain ethical responsibilities in compliance to the following:
1.) Duties of competence
4.) Supervision under ABA Model Rules.
The opinion stated that lawyers need to consider the benefits and risks of technology, especially when protecting the confidentiality of their client's information. The ABA Committee encouraged installing “security-related updates and using strong passwords, antivirus software and encryption” when connecting over Wi-Fi or engaging in virtual meetings, video conferences, and recordings.
While many attorneys return to their offices, some may choose to practice from home or outside the traditional setting long-term. The ABA opinion said, even so, lawyers must make sure they pursue their clients’ matters without unnecessary delay. They still need to “reasonably consult” with them about their cases, as well as supervise their associates, legal assistants, and paralegals when running their virtual practice.
Of course, there are still limitations to technology in the legal field. The ABA Committee noted that lawyers should find ways to continue depositing checks, maintaining their accounting records, and filing and receiving court documents and pleadings, even if they continue having a virtual presence.
The ABA Standing Committee on Ethics and Professional Responsibility release ethics opinions throughout the year to help the legal community understand ABA model rules.
To read more about its recent opinion, click here.
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