Risk Update

On the Risk Radar — “Ethics and Risk Management in the Time of Pandemic”

My thanks to Charles Lundberg for writing in to note his latest article: “Quandaries and Quagmires: Legal ethics, risk management in pandemic” —

  • “In a span of less than two weeks, the coronavirus outbreak has caused unprecedented disruption in law firms and created a host of new issues for firm general counsel and ethics partners. Here is a sampling of new ethics and risk management issues that have arisen almost overnight.”
  • “A new paradigm for civility and reasonableness? Last week, a statement by the Los Angeles County Bar Association’s Professional Responsibility and Ethics Committee called for a new emphasis on lawyer civility… Now the point is this: A month ago there would have been nothing particularly remarkable about counsel pressing for an expedited hearing as he did. But everything has changed now. The pandemic has suddenly narrowed the Overton Window of reasonableness in litigation.”
  • “New cybersecurity concerns for remote work. A recent ABA panel of experts noted that law firms need to be mindful of how employees working remotely can avoid computer viruses and other cybersecurity risks… Hackers are no doubt aware that they can exploit weakened technology systems because most lawyers and support staff are suddenly working remotely. Law firms must protect their clients’ sensitive personal information whether it is viewed in a lawyer’s home or at the firm.”
  • “Wellness issues. Until about three years ago, “attorney wellness” as a law firm risk management issue wasn’t even a Thing. It is now one of the top 5 concerns of those in the ethics and risk management arena. And without question it has become a much bigger issue in the time of pandemic. The deeper issue here is that this is much more than just a law firm risk management issue. It is rather a part of the firm’s culture. Nothing will ensure loyalty to a firm like an open and transparent attitude of caring for the families of its staff in time of crisis. ‘This is the kind of firm we are’ should be the watchword.”
  • “Competence: Keeping up with changes in the law and standards for practice. How do firms keep up with the changes that are occurring almost daily as governments respond to the pandemic? Every day, general counsel responsible for workers across jurisdictions are trying to get up to speed on new mandates, while seeking advice from outside counsel and other external resources. And the ethical duty of supervisory lawyers to ensure competent practice by subordinate lawyers is not subject to a pandemic exception… Across all practice areas, competence in using any new technology (e.g. Zoom for meetings with a client, etc.) must be confirmed. (Speaking of Zoom, have you checked the privacy policy for that app to see what information is being collected about you?)”