Client Files and Digital Law Practices: Rethinking Old Concepts in an Era of Lawyer Mobility
Robert W. Hillman
University of California, Davis - School of Law
Hinshaw & Culbertson LLP
September 23, 2010
Suffolk University Law Review, Vol. 43, p. 897, 2010
UC Davis Legal Studies Research Paper No. 236
The lawyer or law firm that controls client files has distinct advantages in any competition for clients. Not surprisingly, disputes over control and possession of client files have long occupied the attention of courts and ethics committees, which over the years have developed a significant body of case law and ethics opinions addressing myriad issues relating to client files. Existing guidance, however, largely is directed to a world of “hard copy” files where pieces of paper neatly assembled within file folders invite a property-based analysis whenever disagreements over possession or access arise.
This article discusses the effects of digitizing client files and firm information in light of lawyer mobility and evaluates the existing framework of law and ethics developed largely in a world of hard copies. The article also offers some practical suggestions for firms seeking to assert greater control over client information and firm intellectual property.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 25
Keywords: law firm, intellectual property
JEL Classification: K20, L21
Date posted: September 23, 2010 ; Last revised: December 29, 2010