Client files trashed

April 1, 2009
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In the course of their job, lawyers find out some pretty personal stuff about their clients. Information that I’m sure the clients want to remain confidential and protected. Imagine my surprise when I read a news article today about an attorney who threw old client files into the trash while moving. Discovered by a businessman who worked near the attorney’s office, the files contained personal information – Social Security numbers, financial records, and photos.

Here’s the kicker: the attorney said he didn’t know there was personal information in the files, but he left them there days after he was contacted by a reporter about the find.

Aren’t there rules about protecting lawyer-client privilege and client information? Not only was trashing the files a possible violation of that privilege, but it could lead to anyone grabbing a Social Security number or bank account number. Why wouldn’t you take a close look at what you were trashing? If you can’t examine those documents very carefully and pay attention to detail, then how much confidence can the attorney’s clients have in his representation of them?

If I hire an attorney and pay them a ton of money to represent me in a case, I expect they’ll protect my personal and confidential information. I hope none of the attorney’s current or former clients who had their files dumped become victims of identity theft because of this, and I also hope this is just another reminder to attorneys, and other professionals who have access to personal information, to do everything they can to keep that information confidential.
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