Informal Opinion Number: 2022-07

Adoption Date: 2022

Rules: 4-1.4; 4-1.6; 4-5.3
Client-Lawyer Relationship
Law Firms and Associations
Confidentiality of Information
Responsibilities Regarding Nonlawyer Assistants
Subject: Confidentiality; Supervision of Nonlawyers
Summary: email sent to incorrect address

Attorney’s Administrative Assistant sent an email to Client at the direction of the Attorney that contained a letter regarding an upcoming meeting with Client. Administrative Assistant accidentally sent the email to the incorrect email address. Recipient contacted Attorney regarding receipt of the information. Upon learning of this error, what responsibilities does Attorney have under the Rules of Professional Conduct?

Answer: Attorney should first assess the nature of the letter as to what confidential information it contained other than the name of the client and the upcoming meeting. See Informal Opinions 2015-09 and 2015-02. Attorney is responsible for the conduct of Administrative Assistant since the email was sent at the direction of Attorney, so Attorney must take reasonable remedial action to mitigate the consequences to Client pursuant to Rule 4-5.3(c)(2). Attorney should disclose to Client the breach of confidential information to the extent reasonably necessary such that Client may make informed decisions regarding the representation. See Rule 4-1.4; Informal Opinions 2020-26, 2019-06, and 2017-02. Depending on the contents of the letter, Attorney must consider if there are other obligations under applicable state or federal law pursuant to Rule 4-1.6(c), Comments [15] and [16].

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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