These summaries were prepared by McGuireWoods LLP lawyer Thomas E. Spahn. They are based on the letter opinions issued by the Virginia State Bar. Any editorial comments reflect Mr. Spahn's current personal views, and not the opinions of the Virginia State Bar, McGuireWoods or its clients. 
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31-Protecting and Disclosing Confidences and Secrets

45-Law Firms - Miscellaneous

53-Office Sharing with Non-Lawyers


Lawyers must be mindful of their confidentiality, supervision and marketing responsibilities, among other things, if they practice "virtually," or if they combine a virtual practice with an "executive office suite" for meetings and other activities requiring a physical office. Lawyers sharing a space with nonlawyers must take reasonable steps to protect client confidences. Lawyers must also take reasonable steps to protect their clients' confidential information when dealing with technology, including examining "the third party provider's use of technology and terms of service" before using such provider's cloud computing or other services (lawyers unable to assess these factors on their own "will have to consult with someone qualified to make that determination"). Lawyer might also have an obligation to explain to their clients the risk of using certain methods of communication and storage. A lawyer not physically present with colleagues and staff must nevertheless comply with the normal duties of supervising subordinate lawyers and nonlawyers. Lawyers may not use misleading marketing by listing as an office a place where the lawyer does not actually practice (analyzing the situation using such factors as the frequency with which the lawyer uses the space, whether nonlawyers also use the space, signage, etc.). Under the current Virginia regulations (which are the subject of proposed amendments), lawyers admitted by motion to practice in Virginia must maintain an office where they can see clients (which does not include a "virtual office or shared occupancy arrangements."

Copyright 2000, Thomas E. Spahn