You are the one factor outside of your employer’s control that can defeat multiple layers of high-tech protection for confidential information.
Breaches of confidentiality can cost you your job, get your name in the wrong place in the blogosphere or Twitterverse, and make you searchable in a bad way on Google, Lexis, and Westlaw under nasty ethical lapse search terms.
Here are six common sense rules for keeping confidential information and your career safe:
- Your conversations. Never talk about clients or client business outside of the office. The guy at the table next to you knows EXACTLY who you are talking about because his client is on the other side of the deal.
- Your tweets or blog posts. Tweeting or blogging about your work are very smart business development tools, but they are also fraught with peril. Robert Ambrogi lists 16 good reasons to Tweet, but notes: “Before you post to Twitter, consider the consequences. A casual tool such as this makes it easy to unwittingly create an attorney-client relationship or overstep an ethical rule. Even with only 140 characters, you can easily get yourself in hot water.”
- Paper files. If your employer has paper files, know the circumstances under which they may be removed from the office. Guard those files with your life, and never, ever leave them your car.
- Electronic files on the road. 21st-century lawyers expect to work from home, from coffee shops or at the beach, but before you put files onto a flash drive or email them to yourself, be absolutely certain that you will not be violating your employer’s security protocol. Doing could be grounds for instant dismissal. While you may have pcAnywhere or GoToMyPC for your personal computer, your employer may have a different system. Ignore this at your peril.
- Protect your laptop. Lost laptops are client confidentiality nightmares, deeply embarrassing, and overwhelmingly inconvenient. Follow Kim Komando’s tips for protecting your laptop from thieves.
- Reply all is dangerous. The electronic pages of Westlaw and Lexis are littered with sad stories of confidential information gone astray. (Sample search terms to keep you up at night: inadvertent disclosure, inadvertent receipt, risk of disqualification).