Message to Clients
Use and Risks of Technology in Representation
Our firm, as with most other law firms, uses various devices and cloud technologies in the representation of clients, including, but not limited to, desktop and laptop computers, networks connecting computers to each other either directly or through the Internet, cloud-based servers, local servers, smart phones, tablets, copy machines, fax machines, and flash drives. These devices use a number of different applications, including word-processing, email, text messaging and spreadsheets. The devices also contain memory in which information is stored.
These devices and their applications have dramatically increased the efficiency and quality of the services provided in the practice of law to the benefit of our clients. At the same time, the use of these devices, applications, and data storage systems, has increased the transmission and storage location of client information, thereby increasing the risk that such information may be compromised.
In the course of our representation, we will most likely communicate with you or others, not just by U.S. Mail and traditional telephones, but also via email, cellular telephones, text messaging, and fax transmissions, just to name a few. Many of the communications may not be encrypted, or are partially encrypted. Although the interception of such communications by a third party would constitute a violation of federal law, we can offer no assurance that such interception will not occur.
You are encouraged to use encrypted emails to send sensitive information related to the representation, including sensitive personal or financial information. We have instituted various policies and procedures designed to protect the confidentiality of client information, including use of passwords, and encrypted email messages when certain highly sensitive information related to the representation is being conveyed. Ironically, often old-fashioned faxes are considered more secure and are sometimes used to receive and send information. With that being said, please note our faxes go through a third party server and are received in our AOL account as an email.
Although we have a website from which we can have our own email, we typically use commercial email services such as AOL and Gmail, among others. It is our belief that commercial email services are more capable of protecting the information in an email than our own website. Admittedly, there have been a number of breaches of commercial email services. However, they are constantly improving their services in order to protect their market shares.
For instance, services like Gmail have end to end encryption between two email accounts, both of which are Gmail accounts. AOL has some encryption, but it doesn’t appear to be as much as Gmail. We keep emails both in client files and on AOL and Gmail servers. These make finding information on a particular case or client much easier and quicker than searching our own system, which we also do.
If you are concerned about security, we suggest that you open an email account with Gmail and then correspond with us through our alternate email account with Gmail, which is HowellLawFirm@gmail.com. Although we have email accounts with other commercial providers other than those discussed herein, you should not use them.
For most matters, you may certainly use our AOL account, which is only used for client matters. Although the security may not be the highest, we consider it adequate, based upon all factors.
Please keep in mind that there is always the possibility that your own account can be hacked and even end to end encryption will not protect you. It only protects your email while it travels through the Internet. We often receive emails from clients whose email accounts have been hacked. Their contacts are then contacted, including our office. The emails can contain anything from prank type messages to viruses that can lock or destroy the information on your computer.
If you wish, with respect to emails, we can use a special encrypted email service from Switzerland. However, we have found that this service, unlike others, can actually lose information in order to protect it. It has no way of retrieving a lost password, for instance, without deleting all the emails in the account. Also, they too have been hacked.
Due to the manner in which this service works, it will add somewhat to the time it takes to deliver emails to you. Keep in mind that our emails to you will be encrypted, but your email back to us is not likely to be encrypted. If you want us to use this service, you need to send us an email specifically requesting it. We estimate that it will increase the cost of our services to a client by 1%-3%.
We can also communicate with you by U.S. Mail, which some consider to be more secure from interception, but extraordinarily slow and costly when compared to electronic communications. We estimate that it will increase the cost of our services by no less than 5%. If you want us to use U.S. Mail, you need to send us an email specifically requesting it.
Otherwise, with the above being said, when using our services, you acknowledge and accept the risks of any adverse consequences, which could include the loss of attorney-client privilege and attorney work product confidentiality, other protections, and the disclosure of confidential information. Accordingly, you consent to our use of these technologies.