Brian Slome, Jessica Beckwith Publish Daily Journal Article on Fulfilling Ethical Obligations During the Pandemic
Los Angeles, Calif. (October 20, 2020) – San Francisco Partner Brian Slome and Los Angeles Partner Jessica Beckwith recently published an article in the Daily Journal titled “Fulfilling Ethical Obligations Practicing During a Pandemic.” The article discusses the challenges attorneys face when seeking to meet their ethical obligations during the pandemic with respect to communicating effectively with clients and ensuring that these communications remain confidential.
Mr. Slome and Ms. Beckwith begin the article by describing two of the California Rules of Professional Conduct ethical obligations : (1) the obligation, pursuant to Rule 1.4, to communicate with clients, including notifying them promptly of significant developments in their cases; and (2) the obligation, pursuant to Rule 1.6, to hold client information in confidence and to protect it from unauthorized or inadvertent disclosure. The authors point out that because many attorneys are working remotely during the pandemic, often alongside family members while using remote devices, they “must find creative ways to fulfill their ethical obligations.”
First, the authors note that due to the unpredictability and uncertainty that the pandemic has caused, a greater level of client communication is necessary. For example, attorneys need to explain clearly to clients how court closures may impact their matters, why certain fees and costs have increased, and why certain witnesses may be unavailable.
Similarly, the authors describe that keeping client information confidential while working remotely requires concerted effort. For example, attorneys must ensure that they have complete privacy when speaking to clients from inside their homes and that they do not take client calls in public spaces. They must also make reasonable efforts to protect client information, including making sure that their computers are locked and password protected, and that documents kept at home are adequately secured and shredded when necessary.
The authors close by explaining that spending time to achieve effective communication with clients and to ensure protection of their secrets is an “invaluable investment.” They conclude that “lawyers must strive to wear new hats during the pandemic while keeping ethical duties in the forefront of their minds.”
Mr. Slome is a member of Lewis Brisbois’ Professional Liability Practice. He focuses on the defense of attorneys in disciplinary proceedings as well as the representation of other professionals, including insurance agents and brokers, architects, engineers, real estate agents, and inspectors.
Ms. Beckwith serves as Lewis Brisbois’ Firmwide Assistant General Counsel in the Los Angeles and Phoenix offices and as vice chair of its Public Agency & Municipal Law Practice. She is a former State Bar of California Trial Counsel and now regularly advises attorneys and law firms on matters relating to bar charges and complaints in Arizona and California, and other licensing, ethics, and professional responsibility issues.
You can read the full Daily Journal article here (subscription required).