The Ethical Risks of Technology

7 Pages Posted: 28 May 2012

See all articles by Peter A. Joy

Peter A. Joy

Washington University in St. Louis - School of Law

Kevin C. McMunigal

Case Western Reserve University School of Law

Date Written: May 27, 2012

Abstract

Law practice today increasingly depends on technology. The ABA 2010 Legal Technology Survey Report, for example, found that 76 percent of responding lawyers used smart phones, up from 64 percent in 2009. Both prosecutors and defense counsel use e-mail, circulate electronic drafts of legal pleadings, briefs, and other case materials, and rely on smart phones and other mobile devices. Many law offices use remote data backup and cloud computing. Such use of technology raises a number of ethical issues.

What if a lawyer sends an e-mail intending it to be delivered to one recipient only to find that it was accidentally sent to one or more unintended recipients? What if a lawyer loses a smart phone containing client e-mails and documents? Such errors can seriously compromise client confidentiality and attorney-client privilege as well as do serious practical and strategic damage to a client’s case. In this column we explore the ethical issues some of today’s technology creates for lawyers and what ethics rules and opinions say about precautions lawyers should take to protect client information.

Keywords: technology in law practice, ethical obligations, client confidentiality, attorney-client privilege

Suggested Citation

Joy, Peter A. and McMunigal, Kevin C., The Ethical Risks of Technology (May 27, 2012). ABA Criminal Justice, Vol. 27, Forthcoming 2012; Washington University in St. Louis Legal Studies Research Paper No. 12-05-10. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2067424

Peter A. Joy (Contact Author)

Washington University in St. Louis - School of Law ( email )

Campus Box 1120
St. Louis, MO 63130
United States
313-935-6445 (Phone)

Kevin C. McMunigal

Case Western Reserve University School of Law ( email )

11075 East Boulevard
Cleveland, OH 44106-7148
United States
2163683613 (Phone)
2163682086 (Fax)

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