Informal Opinion Number: 2020-26

Adoption Date: 2020

Rules: Rules 4-1.1; 4-1.4; 4-1.6; 4-1.15
Client-Lawyer Relationship
Confidentiality of Information
Safekeeping Property
Subject: Confidentiality
Summary: theft of laptop, cell phone, bar card, and credit cards; loss of client confidential information

QUESTION: Attorney’s office laptop, cell phone, bar card, and credit cards were stolen out of Attorney’s locked vehicle. What do the Rules of Professional Conduct require Attorney to do?

ANSWER: If a stolen electronic device contains, or provides potential access to, information related to the representation of clients or former clients, Attorney must take all steps reasonably necessary to prevent unauthorized access to the information. See Rules 4-1.6(c) and 4-1.1. These steps may include, but may not be limited to, deactivating the cell phone; taking appropriate steps to secure Attorney’s law firm network and/or data in offsite storage; changing all passwords that may be stored on the electronic device; and consulting with a qualified information technology professional if appropriate. Attorney must communicate with affected clients to the extent reasonably necessary to allow each client to make informed decisions about the representation. Rule 4-1.4; see Rule 4-1.9(c) and Informal Opinion 2017-02. Attorney must comply with any applicable law requiring notice to affected persons regarding disclosure of their personal information. See Preamble to Rule 4 at [5]. Attorney must take all necessary steps to protect the funds in the client trust account from unauthorized transfers and should monitor the trust account closely. See Rule 4-1.15(a)(3) and Comment [2]. To address the stolen bar card, Attorney may contact the Office of Attorney Enrollment of the Supreme Court of Missouri. Attorney may also consider taking steps to protect the security of Attorney’s e-filing account with applicable courts and consulting Attorney’s malpractice insurance carrier for additional advice. 

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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