Salazar associate presents on ethics and technology for maritime lawyers

October 25, 2017 Posted in Firm News


Technology is changing fast and attorneys have an obligation to stay abreast of both the latest trends and also guidance from state bars on how to ethically use new tech tools.

Salazar Law associate Kevin L. Cabrera, along with Danielle T. Gauer of Chalos & Co., recently gave a presentation to maritime attorneys on ethical issues related to technology that every maritime attorney should be aware of. The event was the Southeaster Admiralty Law Institute’s Annual Meeting held this year at St. Simon Island, Georgia.

 A few key takeaways from the presentation:

 --In hiring an IT consultant to set up a firm’s computer network, attorneys have an ethical obligation to directly supervise the consultant and ensure that the person has the right credentials and experience to create a network that can handle sensitive and confidential information. Attorneys will also want to make sure that each employee has a discreet username and password. It’s tempting to create an office network without any professional help but given the cybersecurity risks, it might not be appropriate unless the lawyers are technologically competent.

 --Allowing attorneys and staff to work remotely might be good for staff morale but attention must be paid to the security risks involved. Since lawyers must ensure that client information is kept confidential, attorneys must make sure that their home network router is up to date and their network encryption is functioning.

 --Failure to keep internal systems and software up to date can mean more than an ethics violation. In December 2016, the first class action lawsuit was brought against a law firm on the grounds of inadequate security that resulted in failure to prevent disclosure of information relating to representation of the client. The suit claimed that the firm failed to use a “reasonable degree of professional care’’ because it failed to adopt industry standard data security protections.

 --Connecting at Starbucks might not be a good idea. While convenient, public unsecured hotspots allow hackers the opportunity to create networks that exist to collect information or infect a device with malware. Lawyers and staff must check their laptop’s network encryption settings and understand the threat involved if they fail to use them. State bars and authorities recommend that attorneys not send or receive sensitive information while connected to an unknown network.

 --Attorneys need to understand their client’s use of social media and all information posted on social media, as well as ensuring that any information that is removed must be preserved for discovery. There are cases where a plaintiff was sanctioned for deleting his Facebook account, so attorneys need to guide their clients appropriately.

 --Many firms use cloud computing to store information. As a general rule, most state bars say that an attorney must ensure reasonable care against unauthorized access to client information, but they also recognize that there is no guarantee of invulnerability. Attorneys are expected to exercise “reasonable care” when using a cloud service to make sure that the company is using up-to-date security procedures.

 About the author:  Kevin Luis Cabrera is an associate at Salazar Law located in Coral Gables where his focus is in complex corporate litigation, bankruptcy and reorganization, and data privacy. He graduated in 2015 from the University of Miami School of Law where he earned a J.D. and LL.M in Ocean and Coastal Law. He has also received a Bachelor’s Degree in International Business and Business Management from Florida International University. Mr. Cabrera is licensed to practice law in Florida.


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