The following points are intended to facilitate a discussion about practices for maintaining client confidentiality.
- Discuss the importance of client confidentiality.
- Discuss common mistakes that inadvertently cause violations of client confidentiality and share practical pointers in and outside one?s office for safeguarding confidential information. Among other things, examples for discussion could include:
- Discuss proper procedures for file keeping and ensuring that clients who visit your office do not see information about other client matters;
- Discuss the propriety of discussing your client?s case in public (even at the courthouse);
- Discuss the consequence of discussing confidential information with your client when a third party is present by invitation of your client (like a spouse);
- Discuss office procedures for maintaining and destroying client files which impacts client confidentiality; and
- Discuss the potential hazards of using email and fax to communicate confidential information about a case.
- Give specific examples of client information which is confidential and when such information should or should not be revealed, including, among others: the propriety of disclosing that you have been retained by someone; disclosing the name of your client to a third party; or sharing information about your client?s case to opposing counsel during negotiations.
- Discuss a lawyer?s obligations with regard to revealing client fraud. Specifically discuss the differences between the Colorado Rules of Professional Conduct and the Model Rules of Professional Conduct, which they may have learned in law school.
- Discuss a lawyer?s obligation to maintain confidentiality of clients who consult with the lawyer but who do not hire him or her, or who the lawyer ultimately refuses to represent.
- Discuss a lawyer?s obligation to maintain client confidences after the termination of the attorney-client relationship.
- Discuss the practical concerns that arise when a third party pays for a client?s representation and wants to communicate to the client?s lawyer about the representation.
- Discuss client confidentiality issues likely to arise in the new lawyer?s practice area. For example:
- When the new lawyer?s client is a corporation, which communications are confidential and with whom at the corporation can the new lawyer discuss confidential information?
- When the new lawyer?s client is the government (or a government entity), with whom can the new lawyer discuss confidential information? What obligation does the new lawyer have to inform the public about the matters being prosecuted? What obligation does the new lawyer have to inform the victim of a crime about an investigation or prosecution of a suspect?
- Discuss practical issues that must be resolved when sharing office space with lawyers not in the same firm regarding safeguarding confidential information of clients. What if the lawyers share staff like a receptionist, secretary, or a paralegal?
- Discuss how to handle a situation where a lawyer inadvertently receives a document containing what appears to be privileged information about an opposing party in pending litigation.
- Discuss the exceptions to allowing disclosure of confidential information, and provide examples of situations where such exceptions would apply. Share with the new lawyer your firm?s procedures to ensure that the law firm staff does not inadvertently disclose client confidences. Discuss the tips in the article: Kirk R. Hall,?Not So Well-Kept Secrets,?http://apps.americanbar.org/legalservices/lpl/downloads/secrets.pdf.