Whistle-blower warns law firms to protect client data; Auckland lawyer suspended

Edward Snowden has urged law firms to protect their clients' data... lawyer suspended from practice for disregarding previous Law Society ruling… and is it time for your firm to open a ‘drones’ practice?

Edward Snowden warns law firms to protect clients’ data
The ‘NSA whistle-blower’ Edward Snowden has urged law firms and other professionals with a duty to protect clients’ data, to encrypt their communications. Snowden, who was based in Japan as part of his work for the American security services, says that unencrypted communications is not safe and that professionals are failing in their obligations to clients if they do not protect data in this way. The UK’s Law Society has said it is concerned by the suggestion that confidential client data may be at risk and would be talking to other professional bodies to work on a collaborative policy. While protection of data from criminals may be relatively simple, the bigger question is whether commercially available encryption methods would be of any use against the capabilities of government agencies.
Lawyer suspended from legal practice
The New Zealand Lawyers and Conveyancers Disciplinary Tribunal has suspended lawyer Boon Hong for a period of 10 months from 25 July, 2014, and has also been censured. Hong, of Auckland, was suspended for wilfully disobeying an order of a standards committee that he attend a Continuing Legal Education course. The tribunal held that this type of offending needs to be marked with a firm response in order that the institutions of professional discipline are not undermined. Law Society National Prosecutions Manager Mark Treleaven says complying with standards committee orders is fundamental to the regulatory requirements of all lawyers: “Members of the public entrust their personal affairs to legal practitioners and are entitled to know that the Law Society will not treat lightly serious breaches of expected standards by a member of the legal profession.” Hong was ordered to pay the Law Society $20,786 for legal costs and reimburse hearing costs.
The ever-changing sectors for law practice
While some parts of a law firm remain relatively stable, in an ever-changing world there are always new areas for legal minds to ponder. A US law firm is among the first to create a new ‘drones’ practice; dedicated to the growing business of unmanned aircraft. Fafinski Mark & Johnson now has a nine-strong team working in the practice and focusing on those who make, buy, sell, lease or insure unmanned aircraft. It may sound highly niche, but with Amazon pushing hard for approval to test deliveries by drones, this is potentially a huge area for law firms. We may have to wait some time though before case papers are delivered in this way, but one day!


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