How Do Plaintiff’s Attorneys Fulfill Their Professional Responsibility When It Comes to Technology?

How Do Plaintiff’s Attorneys Fulfill Their Professional Responsibility When It Comes to Technology_

We all know we can’t get away with pretending it’s the good old days when the height of our technological prowess was demonstrated by knowing the difference between Microsoft Word and WordPerfect. Technological advances are moving at warp speed and we have to at least board the ship. What does this mean for Plaintiff’s lawyers?

First it’s about security. We have to secure our clients’ personal information (PI), and the definition of PI is ever-expanding. At first PI under the Illinois Personal Information Protection Act, 815 ILCS 530/1, et seq., was limited to a person’s first name or first initial and last name in combination with any one or more of the following data elements: social security number, driver’s license or State ID number, and an account number or credit or debit card number, or an account number or credit card number in combination with any required security code, access code, or password that would permit access to an individual’s financial account.

Based on a bill recently signed into law, effective January 1, 2017, the definition of “Personal Information” will soon encompass the individual’s first name or first initial and last name and any one of the following: (i) Medical information (including any information regarding an individual’s medical history, mental or physical condition, diagnosis, or medical treatment by a healthcare professional, including such information provided by such individual to a website or mobile application); (ii) Health insurance information (including a policy or subscriber number, any other unique identifier, and any related medical information in an application, claims history, or appeals record); and (iii) unique biometric data (including fingerprints, retina or iris images, or other unique physical representation or digital representation of biometric data). PI even includes a user name or email address in combination with a password or security question and answer that would permit access to an online account.

Under the new measure a data collector that owns, maintains, stores, or licenses records that contain PI concerning an Illinois resident must implement and maintain reasonable security measures to protect those records from unauthorized access, acquisition, destruction, use, modification, or disclosure—and that definition, I would argue, includes lawyers. So not only do we have to ensure that we don’t include this information in court filings, we must securely transmit and store the PI so that it is not compromised and disclosed to third parties.

>span class=”s1″>Second, technological knowledge required of an attorney includes use of technology that allows lawyers to better serve their clients. While I’m sure this will be evaluated according to a reasonableness standard so you won’t have to buy the most expensive 3D medical imaging software for your next medical malpractice trial, you should certainly know how social media, such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc., can be either a valuable tool or a sword through the heart of your case. You need to know how to access email and productively search the internet but you don’t need to know how to access computer code revealing metadata in a file. Notwithstanding this, when you’re educating yourself on a client’s claim and building your case, you should also seek to discover what you don’t know and employ the experts who do, such as computer forensic experts, to partner with you to win the case. In other words, if you’re lacking the necessary technical knowledge, I would argue another way to fulfill your professional responsibility is to hire someone who possesses those skills, then everyone wins.

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