August 31, 2011
Evolving computing options impact nearly every business, including the legal profession. Trends in data management have given lawyers the ability to outsource their data storage, often in combination with additional services and programs. Cloud computing:
“[A]llows businesses and individuals to use the Internet to access software programs, applications, and data from computer data centers managed by providers.” I.B.M. v. Visentin, 2011 WL 672025
There are ethical considerations in placing client information on servers owned by third parties. A service agreement that doesn’t insure confidentially could expose an attorney to accusations of breaches of professional responsibility, or conceivably arguments that work-product or attorney client privileges have been waived. Despite the risks, there are significant advantages to storing information in the cloud. The IT department of the service provider will likely have greater resources to bring to bear in fighting viruses, network breakdowns, and hacking attempts than an average firm has at their disposal. Reductions in staff, equipment, and operating costs make cloud computing an attractive option for firms of all sizes in tight economic times.
Guidance on these issues can be found in the following TP-ALL search: network computer internet website online /s cloud /s ethic! confidential! /s attorney lawyer law-firm. This search yields 24 documents, including discussions of how to set-up secure cloud computing and how state bar associations view questions about a lawyer’s responsibilities toward their clients.