The confidentiality of attorney-client communications is an important right to protect. The advent of e-mail creates several issues. Some are not much different from faxes, cell phone communications, wireless home phone communication, and other modern methods of communication where the technology allows opportunities for others to snoop.
E-mail is unique because the communication is re-recorded as it is transmitted through the Internet, and is recorded on the viewing computer, often in more than one way.
Internet based e-mail accounts like g-mail, yahoo mail, & hotmail offer storage on the Internet instead of a specific computer. For some this brand of anonymity is helpful. Many of our clients choose to use these as separate accounts instead of work e-mail accounts or “outlook” type accounts.
It is law that your employer’s e-mail account is the property of your employer; there is no expectation of privacy for a client, who is expecting their communications to be safe from their employer. If interested, check with your employer for their review policies.
Browsers that view e-mail on line and E-mail programs such as outlook, thunderbird, and Apple Mail, keep copies of the mail; sometimes even after they are deleted.
The term “confidential” refers to the general concept of privacy between an attorney and a client; the attorney will not divulge confidential information to third-parties. The idea of “privilege” or “work product” are types of communications that involve a higher standard than confidential and these communications and information are protected from disclosure to the opponent and the court. Talk to your attorney about the difference.
Often clients appreciate the advantages of e-mail over the risks. If they have a specific issue that is sensitive, they either discuss with our attorneys how to raise the security through encryption, password protection, or use alternative communications methods for those issues.
For security concerns about e-mail, please talk to our attorneys.
For those who wish, we will use e-mail to communicate with the client, send copies of letters, faxes, contracts, and other important documents. Often our e-mails involve detailed written instructions, advise, and consultative content.
Finally, we presume that our clients appreciate these concerns and wish to use e-mail if they provide an e-mail address for our use.