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Easy Tips to Protect In-House Confidentiality

By Jonathan R. Tung, Esq. on December 02, 2015 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

It cannot be stressed how important it is to cover yourself and to conduct due diligence with regards to client confidences, even when you're working in-house. A breach of confidentiality could end up costing you your license.

In-house lawyers, however, walk a tight-rope of potential malpractice suits every day, though. Because of the enveloping nature in-house counsel may have with her client -- the company -- she must make sure that she does everything in her power to abide by the ABA rules covering client confidences and attorney-client privilege.

IH woes

First things first: if you're in-house, your client is the company, not people. That's ABA Model Rule 1.13. The people, for the sake of simplicity, are essentially agents of the company for whom you represent. As a general rule of thumb, keep your sensitive communications private, and keep them limited to those people who speak for the company in all material business matters, strategy, litigation concerns. To be safe, when conflicts arise with individual employees, you should repeat that you represent the company and advise them to seek legal counsel.

In-house lawyers should always take the time to read the latest laws and rules that affect them and how they interact with the companies they represent. The constant need to fend off gossipy employees angling for information can make this aspect of in-house practice trying.

Protecting Confidential Information

Besides that, however, the usual limitations on in-house counsel are not that much stronger than those effecting are for their private practice counterparts. There are a number of things people should do as best-practices to protect confidential information and communications:

  • Create Strong Passwords: We've mentioned this one before. In fact, many lawyers should pretty much accept that changing passwords is simply a part of life for everyone -- not just lawyers.
  • Burner Accounts: In-house lawyers may do a lot of traveling. If you go to countries which have an odious reputation for cyber-hacking, burner accounts are a must.
  • Talk Quietly in Public: One waives confidences when a conversation is held in a public place and not reasonably guarded to keep the conversation private. This is a dumb mistake that no-one should make.
  • Back-up Regularly: More and more lawyers use the cloud these days. But that doesn't mean you should forgo making numerous backups. Failure to preserve documents could be a violation of Rule 1.6. Today, the process is very simple. Don't be lazy about this.

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