The coronavirus pandemic provides an opportunity for lawyers who want to meet the public demand for online legal services. At this time, attorneys may be scrambling to reassess their client intake and conferencing procedures so that they make sense for both the legal and digital world.
From video conferencing to instant messaging, here’s some current guidelines and rules on the matter, alongside best practices for deploying these technologies.
Bar Association Guidance
There is no specific guidance available for attorneys through bar associations on how to offer legal services online explicitly. As such, complying with existing rules and applying their meanings to new technologies are practical approaches.
Rule 1.3 in the Model Rules of Professional Conduct state:
“A lawyer shall act with reasonable diligence and promptness in representing a client.”
Rule 1.1 also offers:
“A lawyer shall provide competent representation to a client. Competent representation requires the legal knowledge, skill, thoroughness, and preparation reasonably necessary for the representation.”
Adopting secure technologies amid the coronavirus pandemic aligns with both of these notions. However, it is critical to establish standard operating procedures (SOPs) and perform your due diligence beforehand.
Best Practices for Lawyers Offering Online Legal Representation
When serving clients online, conforming to communication guidelines and avoiding attorney-client privilege violations is a priority when selecting your tools and training support staff members.
Here are a few tips for serving clients in the online space:
1. Perform your due diligence by investing in law firm or HIPAA-compliant communication tools
2. Keep your services as simple and streamlined as possible for higher adoption rates among staff and clients
3. Be aware of clients in practice areas, who may be technologically averse, and provide help as reasonably needed
4. Train your staff adequately on information systems as well as the rules that apply to legal communications
5. When in doubt, reach out to colleagues, bar associations, and other organizations for specific advice
Agile attorneys have a unique opportunity to strengthen relationships with current and prospective clients amid the coronavirus pandemic. Utilizing secure tools with the right encryption and a little systematizing will go a long way to provide continuity.