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Law Practice Management and Technology

The Bottom Line Volume 34, No.3, August 2013

MCLE Self-Study Article: Using Client Portals to Protect Your Clients’ Privacy

By Donna Seyle, Esq.

The security of online functions used by attorneys to communicate and collaborate with their clients is of major concern to regulatory authorities, one of the subjects of the ABA’s Ethics 20/20 Commission’s review of the Model Rules, and at the core of your ethical obligations to insure the privacy of client data, attorney/client confidentiality and maintenance of the attorney/client privilege.

Recently, the United States District Court in West Virginia held that a bank president who emailed his attorney via the company’s email system waived his attorney/client privilege, where the company’s email policy dictated that all emails sent through their account were considered company property. That is only one of many scenarios that can lead to violations of ethical conduct or waiver of privilege when using online communication tools that are not properly securitized. Use of a client portal is one answer to this challenge.

A client portal is also referred to as a “secure web space”. The term is most often applied to an electronic sharing mechanism between an organization and its clients. The organization provides a secure entry point, typically via a website, that lets its clients log in to an area where they can communicate, view and download documents, collaborate on document editing and upload private information.

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