Secure text messaging for lawyers- Ensuring confidentiality

PrivnoteAs a lawyer, maintaining client confidentiality is one of your top responsibilities. With text messaging being a common form of communication, you need to take steps to keep sensitive client information private when texting. There is several secure and private text messaging options available to help lawyers have confidential text conversations.  

Importance of confidentiality for lawyers

As a lawyer, you have an ethical obligation to keep client information privatemessage under attorney-client privilege laws. All lawyer communications with clients are considered confidential, including letters, emails, phone calls, and text messages.   Breaching privacy results in serious consequences like disciplinary action, malpractice claims, loss of client trust, and damage to your reputation. Using unsecured texting apps puts confidential client details at risk if messages are snooped upon. That’s why it’s critical to keep text conversations with clients secure.

Standard text messaging 

While texting is quick and convenient, most standard text messaging apps like iMessage and SMS have security vulnerabilities. Here are some of the risks of using unprotected texting:

  1. Lacks of encryption – Standard texts aren’t encrypted end-to-end, making it possible for third parties to access messages.
  2. Data retention – Text contents may be saved indefinitely on company servers. 
  3. Metadata leakage – Time, date, location, and sender/recipient details can be exposed.
  4. SMS hijacking – Hackers can intercept texts by exploiting SS7 weaknesses.
  5. Unsupported attachments – Sensitive attachments can be difficult to send securely.
  6. Lack of self-destruct – No way to make texts disappear after reading. 
  7. No screenshot prevention – Recipients can easily screenshot texts.
  8. Backups and cloud storage – Texts may be present in phone backups stored insecurely.

These vulnerabilities mean standard messaging apps aren’t suitable for attorney-client privilege conversations. Extra precautions are needed to keep texts private.

Tips for setting up secure text messaging

Once you have a secure texting application set up, here are some best practices for communicating with clients:

  • Explain the importance of confidentiality and encrypting texts before starting to message a client.
  • Be clear about which topics are acceptable over text and which require more secure communication.
  • Enable disappearing messages and remind clients not to screenshot sensitive information.
  • Avoid communicating specifics like names, dates, and locations when possible.
  • If you must send a document, use a secure file-sharing app, not a standard text attachment.
  • When texting very sensitive details, follow up with an encrypted email or phone call.
  • Periodically check that your app’s security settings haven’t changed and encryption/disappearing texts are still active.
  • Never communicate confidential information over unsecured SMS text messages.
  • If you switch between personal and work phones, keep your secure messaging app consistent.

Keeping texts with clients professional, on-topic, and encrypted will help you maintain confidentiality standards. Always adhere to attorney conduct rules, even when texting.