When your lawyer doesn’t use secure email to exchange confidential information – and sends the wrong file attachment to opposing legal counsel

I have communicated with my lawyer over email for years. Every time I hit ‘send’ or open an email from my lawyer, I have always felt uncomfortable and vulnerable about the lack of security surrounding the exchange. The sensitive information and super-confidential details included in the body of the email often include financial information and legal strategy discussions. Not to mention the email attachments which often include copies of financial statements or draft responses to opposing counsel.  This private information which is intended to be classified as ‘privileged and confidential’ can easily be cyber-attacked and intercepted. My legal counsel exchanges confidential information with both me and opposing counsel.  The communication exchange methods include unsecured fax which can also easily be intercepted. Faxes are paper-based and are often printed in public office spaces. I have never insisted on a secure email solution from my attorney because I naively felt that if there was a straightforward solution available, the law firm would undoubtedly have adopted it by now. After all, the responsibility for ensuring that confidential legal email exchanges remain secure lies with the legal firm, not the client.   But a recent situation with my legal firm has zapped me out of complacency and into insisting that my lawyer adopt an email encryption solution to secure my email transactions and records. In this particular situation, my attorney and I were involved in hot negotiations with another party and working on a 10 page proposal to be presented to opposing counsel. As the client and active participant, I literally spent at least 15 hours working on the proposal to ensure it was positioned perfectly. To accomplish this, my attorney and I emailed 10 versions of the draft proposal back and forth as email attachments. When it was finalized, I gave my lawyer the green light to send the proposal to opposing counsel. Unfortunately, the wrong version of the proposal was faxed to opposing counsel by the legal firm’s receptionist.  It was void of important changes in strategy and points included in the final version of the proposal.  Because it was sent by fax, there was no way to retract the proposal. Re-sending the correct version of the proposal to opposing council would only have served to highlight the changes in the document and divulge the evolving strategy.  There was nothing I could do except deal with my frustration. The following ‘fix’ may appear biased. But this is a true account of my unfortunate experience, and email2’s secure email is truly the ideal solution to address the discomforts outlined in this blog post. Firstly, email2’s secure email would ensure that my private email exchanges (and attachments) with my lawyer are as secure as internet banking. Secondly, email2 would be able to repair the erroneous send of the older version proposal.  Had the legal firm adopted email2’s encrypted email solution, the message and file attachment could have instantly been recalled – even if opposing counsel had opened and read the email and attached proposal.  The email and attached wrong version proposal would have instantly been fully recalled (pulled) from opposing counsel’s inbox, and the correct version would have been re-emailed. Third, I have also been in a position where the legal firm does not hear back from opposing counsel for weeks, and we’re never sure if opposing counsel has received or read the proposal. They simply go dark. Are they away? On vacation? With email2, my lawyer would have access to message tracking capabilities and instant visibility into what happens to an email after it’s sent. Was the message and attachment received? Read? Printed? Deleted? Saved? email2 also provides functionality to prevent opposing counsel from forwarding, saving or printing the email and attachment for full control of confidential exchanges. email2 does not require my legal firm or me (the client) to change their existing email – including my use of Outlook, Blackberry, or Yahoo.  So there should be no reason why clients can’t insist that their legal firm of choice adopt a solution that provides secure email and controls. Join the discussion. Tell us your stories about unsecured communication with your legal firm. Ariane Laird recently joined email2. email2 enables professional services organizations to securely send, receive, track and automate delivery of confidential email and large attachments outside the organization – without requiring staff or recipients to change their existing email.