May 30, 2017

Public Wi-fi: Lawyers Beware of Coffeehouse Practice

Alison Austin

Lawyers often conduct business at coffee shops and other public places like hotel lobbies, accessing public wi-fi; however, the use of public wi-fi may cause both legal and ethical issues for those attorneys engaging in such practice. State bars and ethic experts advise attorneys to not use public wi-fi, because once they are logged in, the “packets,” or pieces of information sent and received can be intercepted and decoded, thereby exposing confidential and privileged client information.

Hackers can reach information from the public wi-fi cloud. When a client’s classified data is breached, it can lead to malpractice claims, increased insurance cost, and many other repercussions. Unfortunately, an attorney may not realize the damage until long afterwards as it is impossible to tell if you have been hacked.

Because of this, many state bars, including California, have issued formal opinions stating that client confidential information is at risk when lawyers use public wi-fi without proper safeguards.  All in all, the importance of a private network cannot be overemphasized when dealing with confidential information.

Alison Austin

Austin Law Firm in Raleigh, North Carolina.