Informal Opinion Number: 20050068

Rules: 4-1.6
Client-Lawyer Relationship
Confidentiality of Information

QUESTION: Attorney wants to hire an answering service to answer phones during non-business hours. The answering service staff would identify themselves as such when answering phones, and Attorney would have them sign a confidentiality agreement before retaining their services. They would take messages from existing clients as well as potential new clients. Are these steps sufficient with the ethical rules? If not, what additional steps need to be taken in order to hire this service?

ANSWER: It is permissible to use an answering service if Attorney has taken sufficient steps to safeguard the confidentiality of client information. At a minimum, the type of information to be included in the confidentiality agreement with the answering service should provide that all answering service staff will be notified that all information related to Attorney’s account is confidential. It should also provide that the company will be liable for any breach of confidentiality by the company’s staff. Attorney should also give clients instructions to limit the information they provide to the answering service, if possible.

Informal Opinions are ethics advisory opinions issued by the Office of Legal Ethics Counsel to members of the Bar about Rule 4 (Rules of Professional Conduct), Rule 5 (Complaints and Proceedings Thereon), and Rule 6 (Fees to Practice Law) pursuant to Missouri Supreme Court Rule 5.30(c). Written summaries of select Informal Opinions are published for informational purposes as determined by the Advisory Committee of the Supreme Court of Missouri pursuant to Rule 5.30(c). Informal opinion summaries are advisory in nature and are not binding. These opinions are published as an educational service and do not constitute legal advice.

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