New Pa. Bar Ethics Opinion – Obligations of Lawyers Working Remotely

The Pennsylvania Bar Association Committee on Legal Ethics and Professional Responsibility today issued Formal Opinion 2020-300 – Ethical Obligations of Attorneys Working Remotely. The Opinion is intended to provide global guidance to attorneys working from home, not only during the COVID-19 pandemic, but also for those who will work remotely even after the situation returns to “normal.” I am a Vice Chair of and the incoming Chair of the PBA Committee and a contributor to the Opinion. Click here to read the Pa. Bar Association Formal Opinion.

The Opinion provides an ethical analysis of the obligations of attorneys and their staff about how to best comply with their obligation to preserve client confidentiality. In the Introduction, the Opinion states:

“At a minimum, when working remotely, attorneys and their staff have an obligation under the Rules of Professional Conduct to take reasonable precautions to assure that:

  • “All communications, including telephone calls, text messages, email, and video conferencing are conducted in a manner that minimizes the risk of inadvertent disclosure of confidential information;
  • Information transmitted through the Internet is done in a manner that ensures the confidentiality of client communications and other sensitive data;
  • Their remote workspaces are designed to prevent the disclosure of confidential information in both paper and electronic form;
  • Proper procedures are used to secure and backup confidential data stored on electronic devices and in the cloud;
  • Any remotely working staff are educated about and have the resources to make their work compliant with the Rules of Professional Conduct; and,
  • Appropriate forms of data security are used.

This Opinion adopts conclusions from the American Bar Association’s Formal Opinion 477R and provides practical – use-it-now – suggestions for how attorneys can adopt best practices.

My law firm, Law Offices of Daniel J. Siegel, LLC, and my consulting firm, Integrated Technology Services, LLC, provide techno-ethical guidance to attorneys about the issues addressed in the Opinion, and I have been writing and lecturing about these topics for more than a decade.

If you are a lawyer or firm administrator and need guidance on the ethical and/or the technological issues confronting attorneys and staff working remotely, contact Dan Siegel, Christa High or Pam Myers; we are the pioneers of techno-ethics and are here to help you.

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