Informal Opinion Number: 2018-09

Adoption Date: 2018

Rules: 4-1.1; 4-1.6; 4-5.3
Client-Lawyer Relationship
Law Firms and Associations
Confidentiality of Information
Responsibilities Regarding Nonlawyer Assistants
Subject: Competence; Confidentiality
Summary: cloud computing

Question: May Attorney use “cloud computing” in a way that is consistent with Attorney’s ethical obligations?
Answer: Attorney may use cloud computing in the practice of law without violating the Rules of Professional Conduct if Attorney maintains competence in the use of relevant technology (Rule 4-1.1) and makes reasonable efforts to safeguard confidential information from inadvertent or unauthorized disclosure or access, as warranted by the particular facts and circumstances of each client’s matter (Rules 4-1.6(c) and Comments [15] and [16]; Rule 4-5.3 and Comment [3]). Attorney should read carefully the cloud computing provider’s terms and conditions of service. Attorney should ensure adequate provider policies and practices as to (1) ownership and security of client information, and (2) attorney and provider access to client information. Reasonable efforts to safeguard confidential information may include (but are not limited to) ensuring adequate provider policies and practices regarding:
• Security measures protecting confidentiality of client information during transmission and storage;
• Prompt notification of Attorney in the event of a security breach or provider’s receipt of a subpoena for client information;
• Ownership of data solely by Attorney or Attorney’s firm;
• No access rights by the provider to client information, except as required by law;
• Regular data backup by the provider;
• Handling of client information in the event Attorney’s relationship with the provider is terminated;
• Compliance with applicable law regarding data storage and transmission;
• Reliable access to data by Attorney;
• No access to data by third parties, including advertisers, except as required by law; and
• Domestic storage of data, or, alternatively, storage in a jurisdiction subject to United States data protection laws or equivalent.
Because what constitutes adequate provider policies and practices in these areas may change as relevant technology evolves, Attorney is encouraged to consult with a qualified information technology professional, take continuing legal education courses on use of technology in practice, and/or engage in regular self-study of materials from reputable sources to maintain competence in the use of cloud computing in the practice of law.

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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