Maintaining client confidences

November 27, 2012
Fulton County Daily Report

Attorneys must maintain client confidences and secrets. While obvious, this is one of the most often overlooked obligations attorneys have. Yet the consequences for violating this obligation are no less serious.

The State Bar of Georgia can discipline an attorney for the failure to maintain client confidences and secrets, or for the failure to ensure that others for whom the attorney has supervisory responsibility maintain client confidences and secrets.

Independently, attorneys can face a legal malpractice claim for their failure to maintain client confidences and secrets. The standard of skill, care, prudence and diligence by attorneys practicing law in the State of Georgia includes adequate care to protect client confidences and secrets.

Proximately caused damages for the failure to protect client confidences and secrets range significantly. Victims of domestic abuse whose attorneys disclosed their identities and businesses whose trade secrets were not adequately protected can assert claims, among many others.

The challenges for attorneys in the modern world to protect client confidences and secrets have never been greater. In the past, special care had to be taken to make sure that attorneys and employees understood the risks of innocent elevator talk or casual conversation. As legal malpractice suits illustrate, loose lips can sink ships—including business deals, settlements, cases and negotiations.

Those risks pale in comparison to the risks of the modern world of Facebook, Twitter and Internet search tools. Worse yet, data security is an increasingly important issue for law firms, as it is in other industries.

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