Ethics on the Cloud

Recent developments in cloud-based computing have enabled professionals to perform an increasing amount of work remotely.  Because professionals are no longer tied to the office, they are able to work more efficiently and better serve their clients.  However, the use of third-party technology companies to store confidential client data raises several ethics concerns regarding the professional-client relationship.

The Tennessee Board of Professional Responsibility issued a formal ethics opinion earlier this month that addresses the ethical concerns of cloud-based computing.  Cloud computing allows individuals to store …

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Tech Talk : Conflicts of Interest in Patent Law

Conflicts of interest are always a potential pitfall in the realm of attorney malpractice.  The issue becomes even more complicated when tech-based clients enter the scene.  What happens when two tech clients who are not directly adverse, but instead are potential competitors, both approach you for assistance?

This scenario has come to life at the nexus of attorney malpractice and patent law, where a firm is charged with malpractice due to concurrent representation of two different clients, both of whom sought patent protection at the …

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Failure to Cite Blog Content Leads to Copyright Claim

Professionals utilize blogs for a variety of reasons: for marketing and promotion, to highlight trends and relevant issues, or to be of service to the community.  In many cases, professional blogs do not generate original content, but rather provide summaries and links to primary sources, which readers can further investigate.  However, professionals, like all bloggers, must be careful to identify their sources and avoid simply copying content from other sites.  Failure to give credit where credit is due, even in blog posts, can violate ethics …

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Failure to Keep Up with Technology Could Lead to Ethics Violation

Technology is rapidly changing the manner in which businesses operate.  This is equally true for professionals, who must incorporate and adapt to technological advances in order to thrive in a competitive marketplace.  However, keeping up to date with technology is not merely a matter of protecting the bottom line.  Professionals who fail to stay on the cutting edge could violate ethics rules and jeopardize their client’s interests.

The State Bar of California Standing Committee on Professional Responsibility and Conduct recently issued a formal opinion addressing …

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Social Media Guidelines Get a Profile Update

Social Media has transformed the legal profession.  Today’s lawyers routinely communicate, advertise, investigate and obtain information via the numerous social media platforms available at the click of a button.  The rapid change in the way lawyers do business has created a new set of ethical challenges. In order to navigate this growing field of ethical issues, many states have issued guidelines for the use of social media in the legal profession.  Last year, the New York State Bar Association’s Commercial and Federal Litigation Section issued …

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Public and Private E-mails Don’t Mix

Hillary Clinton recently made headlines for using her personal email account for business purposes during her tenure as Secretary of State. This high profile example provides us with an opportunity to reflect upon what is commonplace for some.  It can be tempting for employees to use personal email accounts to conduct corporate business, particularly when working remotely.  However, the highly sensitive nature of Clinton’s job raised questions over the security of using a non-work email account to transmit information. Depending on the nature of your …

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Technology in the Courtroom – The Dos and Don’ts

Stuck in court but want to use your tablet to respond to a client e-mail?  Waiting for your case to be called and want to send a tweet from your phone?  Is this sort of conduct permissible in the courtroom?  Nowadays, it is anyone’s guess.  Smartphones and tablets have become indispensable in the legal world, but the law regarding electronic communications sent from the courtroom is still in flux. The New Jersey Supreme Court’s proposed Guidelines on Electronic Devices in the Courtroom, which have yet …

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No More “Signing” on the Dotted Line

E-mails rule the business world.   Due in part to the sheer volume of e-mails we receive, many professionals use standardized email signatures, which are automatically inserted at the bottom of an email.  The shift to more transactions occurring by email raises the question: what constitutes a legally binding signature? A recent decision by the California Court of Appeals addressed the issue of when an e-mail may constitute a binding signature.  The decision underscores the importance of understanding the validity of electronic signatures and the statutory …

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Protect Your E-Filing Passwords

It wasn’t long ago when filing deadlines forced attorneys to rely on the speed and reliability of their process-server or messenger. How many filings were missed due to a flat tire or traffic? If the filing wasn’t stamped before the court closed at 4 PM, the filing could be considered late and the attorney left answering to the client. The dawn of electronic filing has changed this process. Many courts accept filing up to midnight of the due date and hand-delivery is no longer a …

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Does the “Private” E-mail Exist?

Innovations in technology have blurred the lines between work and private life.  Many professionals regularly utilize personal devices, such as smart phones and tablets, while in the office, and can likewise access company files electronically through work-issued computers while at home.  Given the lack of a bright-line distinction between that which is work and that which is private, employees may be tempted to engage in conduct on personal accounts or devices that would otherwise be clearly prohibited in the office.  

Take, for instance, the recent

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