March 30, 2017 feature

Law Firm Cybersecurity Breach Opens Door to Lawsuit

Potential ethics and malpractice issues are front and center

By Joseph P. Beckman

As we become more mobile, law firms face substantially greater challenges meeting their ethical obligation to keep client information confidential. The progress, convenience, and efficiency that technology has brought to our practices carries with it a risk we cannot see but against which we must be vigilant.

A recently unsealed case in the Northern District of Illinois highlights the ethical conundrum facing law firms. Jason Shore and Coinabul, LLC v. Johnson & Bell, Ltd. As Clint Eastwood's Harry Callahan says, "A man's got to know his limitations." We lawyers know enough to write about our ethical obligations regarding client confidentiality. We can talk intelligently about the various risks of different technology. Our limitation is that very few of us have the level of technology expertise to make the underlying technology decisions.

If we heed the warning in this case, we may reevaluate some of the decisions we make in running a law practice. We may invest a little more time, thought, and resources into keeping all software current and following the related data security practices. The result will only benefit us and our clients.

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