The Ethics Of Computer Software In A Law Practice

Trust Accounting

The Pennsylvania Bar Association recently released Formal Opinion 2014-300, addressing the ethics issues associated with the use of social media. While this opinion is not directly relevant to legal office management software like CosmoLex, it is an important reminder that we must consider how new technologies affect the way attorneys practice.

Non-Technology Rules Still Apply

Many of the Pennsylvania conclusions take existing rules about communication and extend them to social media. For example, attorneys can interact with judges on social media but not if that interaction is meant to sway the judges. The same could be said for taking a judge out for coffee or any other kind of non-internet social interaction.

Take the same stance when using CosmoLex. If you shouldn’t be doing something with paper ledgers, then you shouldn’t be doing it in a law office billing program. The same fundamental rules on ethics in bookkeeping and accounting would apply regardless of the technology used. This is one reason you need to use dedicated legal software. Standard business software may not have the security features you need to satisfy your ethical obligations to protect sensitive data.

Be Aware Of Exposure

One of the dangerous aspects of social media, as many an attorney has discovered either for the benefit or detriment of a client, is that it is global. Social media is by definition public, and yet users are often surprised that their “private” posts and photos become part of a case. Attorneys need to be very careful what they post on social media, or even whose social media accounts they access.

Practice management software is not technically public, but it can have public reach if you aren’t careful. Easy access to cloud-based software is convenient, but you need to be sure that access is secure. In addition to doing business only with reputable cloud software providers that take security seriously — and CosmoLex takes security very seriously with our enterprise-grade security — you must implement strong passwords and other policies that will ensure case information is accessed only by authorized users.

Technology makes it easy and fast to do things right, but it also makes it easy and fast to do things wrong. However as long as you take the time to understand your legal software and use it safely, you can manage your practice more effectively without ignoring your obligations.


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