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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45-Law Firms - Miscellaneous

46-Confidentiality - Miscellaneous

Providing guidance for lawyers' virtual practice, defined as follows: "This opinion defines and addresses virtual practice broadly, as technologically enabled law practice beyond the traditional brick-and-mortar law firm. A lawyer's virtual practice often occurs when a lawyer at home or on-the-go is working from a location outside the office, but a lawyer's practice may be entirely virtual because there is no requirement in the Model Rules that a lawyer have a brick-and-mortar office."; addressing: (1) competence, diligence and communication; (2) confidentiality; (3) supervision; also providing advice about "virtual practice technologies": (1) "Hard/Software Systems"; (2) "Accessing Client Files and Data; (3)"Virtual meeting platforms and video conferencing" (including the following advice: "Access to accounts and meetings should be only through strong passwords, and the lawyer should explore whether the platform offers higher tiers of security for business/enterprises (over the free or consumer platform variants). Likewise, any recordings or transcripts should be secured. If the platform will be recording conversations with the client, it is inadvisable to do so without client consent, but lawyers should consult the professional conduct rules, ethics opinions, and laws of the applicable jurisdictions. Lastly, any client-related meetings or information should not be overheard or seen by others in the household, office, or other remote location, or by other third parties who are not assisting with the representation, to avoid jeopardizing the attorney-client privilege and violating the ethical duty of confidentiality."; (4) "Virtual Document and Data Exchange Platforms"; (5) "Smart Speakers, Virtual Assistants, and Other Listening - Enabled Devices" (including the following advice: "Unless the technology is assisting the lawyer's law practice, the lawyer should disable the listening capability of devices or services such as smart speakers, virtual assistants, and other listening-enabled devices while communicating about client matters. Otherwise, the lawyer is exposing the client's and other sensitive information to unnecessary and unauthorized third parties and increasing the risk of hacking."; also providing advice about lawyers' supervision duties over their subordinates/assistants and their vendors; concluding with a reminder that: (1) "lawyers practicing virtually must make sure the trust accounting rules, which vary significantly across states, are followed;" (2) "lawyers still need to make and maintain a plan to process the paper mail, to docket correspondence and communications, and to direct or redirect clients, prospective clients, or other important individuals who might attempt to contact the lawyer at the lawyer's current or previous brick-and-mortar office."; and (3) "[i]f a lawyer will not be available at a physical office address, there should be signage (and/or online instructions) that the lawyer is available by appointment only and/or that the posted address is for mail deliveries only. Finally, although e-filing systems have lessened this concern, litigators must still be able to file and receive pleadings and other court documents."

Copyright 2000, Thomas E. Spahn