Thoughts on the Law Society of BC Bencher Bulletin Feature Article: The Real World of Virtual Law Firms
I read with interest an article out today in the Law Society of BC Bencher Bulletin about virtual law firms.
Some quotes caught my particular attention. Specifically, a Practice Advisor at the Law Society of BC is quoted as follows:
Some lawyers are so keen on the technology and reducing overhead by having a ‘virtual law firm’ that they are not putting their minds to the professional responsibility issues regarding confidentiality, conflicts, client identification and verification, determining mental capacity of the client to instruct, undue influence over the client and so on.
There are currently very few law firms that I am aware of in BC that are in fact “virtual.” The virtual firms that I am aware of in BC are actively involved in professional responsibility issues, have been in proactive communications with the Law Society of BC in this regard and ascribe to the American Bar Association Law Practice Management eLawyering Task Force Best Practices. I wonder what virtual law firms are being referred to that are not putting their minds to serious professional responsibility issues?
Another quote from the article struck me as interesting:
In terms of confidentiality, if clients are logging onto the firm’s website to exchange information then lawyers need to consider the site’s security, among other things,” advised Buchanan. “They need to protect it from hackers and fraudsters. Ideally their server should be in their office and, if not, they need a major provider with an air tight confidentiality agreement — not just a server in their garage. If your server is an American one there is a significant risk to the security of your clients’ information, because the US government could invoke the USA PATRIOT Act.
So, according to the Law Society of BC, if your server is an American one, there is a serious risk to client data under the USA Patriot Act? First of all, many major financial services providers and even governmental organizations in Canada engage in transborder data flows of confidential information through the use of contractors and subcontractors located in other jurisdictions. The use of information services suppliers between countries is a significant component of the world economy. To be clear, some departments of the Government of Canada itself contract with information services providers resulting in confidential personal information about Canadian citizens residing on foreign servers, including the US.
I will quote the Treasury Board of Canada:
How worried should I be that my personal information could be accessed under the USA PATRIOT Act? The chances of this happening are remote.