It’s been quite some time now that cloud computing has been in existence and it has soared. Cloud computing, for those who don’t know, is the storage of files, software, or even operating systems on computers that are not yours. You may have heard of cloud storage companies such as Dropbox or perhaps Google (Drive), even Windows is in the fray (OneDrive previously known as Skydrive). And if you are one of the millions out there with an i device, then you most definitely have something in the cloud.
Up until last year cloud services in Ohio had the potential of being a problem for law firms when it came to storage of client confidential documents. However, due to an ethical opinion published by the Ohio Bar Association, cloud storage was permitted so long as using the storage was done with a little bit of intelligence and in line with the Ohio Rules of Professional Conduct. In the opinion, the Ohio Bar refrains from requiring any specific practices over and above regular paper storage, mainly, it opines, because any mandated practices will almost certainly become obsolete as soon as technology advances. As such, the opinion says that a lawyer has a continuing duty to make reasonable judgment when protecting client property and information, cloud storage included.
The opinion goes on to outline four issues to address when calculating what is a reasonable cloud storage platform to store a client’s information:1
- Competently selecting an appropriate vendor for cloud storage – an analysis of the cloud vendor and it’s competency (i.e. business qualifications, reputation, and longevity)
- Preserving confidentiality and safeguarding client property – an analysis of the vendor’s policies (i.e. what are the vendors security policies to safeguard files from a potential hacker; does the vendor’s agreement give the vendor ownership over the files?)
- Supervising cloud vendors – making sure the vendors conduct is compatible with the lawyers (i.e. does the vendor share information?)
- Communicating with the client – letting your client know about the firm’s use of cloud storage
All these questions apply to paper storage as much as they do to digital storage. However, these issues need to be addressed by the firm in order to ensure their cloud storage policies are in line with Ohio Rules of Professional Conduct.
1 This is a very brief synopsis of the opinion. For the full opinion, follow this link.