Communication in Legal Advocacy: Selecting Secure Software
Legal advocacy revolves around communication. From talking with victims to pursuing litigation to lobbying legislators, every phase of legal advocacy involves communication. This makes communication software an essential tool for legal advocacy.
But communication in legal advocacy is governed by privacy considerations similar to those which prevail in other areas of law, where client confidentiality is a priority. This means communications software selected for use in legal advocacy must be suitable for protecting sensitive conversations and documents. Here’s a look at some of the considerations that affect communication in legal advocacy, how they impact software selection, and what to look for when choosing software to protect your communications.
Concerns with Communication in Legal Advocacy
Legal advocates face issues similar to those which govern communications between lawyers and their clients. Communications between attorney and their clients are generally considered “privileged.” The definition of privileged communication refers to communications in a private, legally protected relationship where confidentiality is presumed and courts cannot compel testimony regarding contents of communications. Examples of such relationships include:
- Attorney-client privilege, which protects private discussions between lawyers and those they represent.
- Discussions between spouses, where one spouse cannot be compelled to testify against another
- Religious consultations, such as discussions between a priest and a parishioner during confession
- Sharing of healthcare data between providers and patients
Certain types of discussion between legal advocates and those they represent may also fall under the category of privileged communication. For example, in Wisconsin, conversations between sexual assault victims and sexual assault service providers at rape crisis centers is legally protected under the designation of “victim-advocate privilege.” The victim has the privilege of denying disclosure of any information discussed during conversations with legal advocates. Neither counselors who assist victims nor others at rape crisis centers may share information without the victim’s consent. The victim may choose to waive this right if they want the information disclosed. Professionals who disclose protected information without authorization may face both civil and criminal punishment, including losing their license.
This protection only applies to private conversations for the purpose of counseling, assistance, or support services where there was no intent of disclosing the information of third parties. For example, a conversation in a counselor’s office would be protected, but a conversation in a restaurant with others present might not be protected. Laws on privileged communication in a legal advocacy context may vary by state, so advocates should be familiar with the laws in their state. HIPAA regulations may apply in some situations.
Addressing Legal Advocacy Communication Concerns when Selecting Software
Privileged communication regulations place a heavy responsibility for legal advocates for protecting private client information. This responsibility has a bearing on advocates’ choice of communications software.
Software communication channels such as VoIP phone calls, video chat, texting, emails, unified communications as a service (UCaaS), and contact center as a service (CCaaS) platforms are potentially vulnerable to hackers and other security vulnerabilities. To avoid liability, legal advocates must do due diligence in ensuring that the communications software they use is reasonably protected against security risks. For legal advocates who are privy to healthcare information, HIPAA regulations may also apply.
Choosing the Right Communications Software for Legal Advocacy
In order to make sure your communications software is adequate for protecting your clients’ confidentiality, the first step is to research state and federal laws and find out what regulations apply to your type of legal advocacy. You should then seek a software provider who complies with the standards applicable to you. You can evaluate communications software providers by asking them some key compliance questions, such as:
- What general security and compliance standards do they profess on their company’s website?
- Do they use encryption to protect data in storage and in transmission?
- Do they meet with the security and compliance standards your advocacy center requires?
- Is their compliance certified by any independent parties?
- Will they provide you a written agreement with compliance guarantees?
- Can they help you configure your software for optimal security?
Asking prospective providers these types of questions can help ensure that the solution you select protects your clients' confidential communications.
Protecting Client Confidentiality Requires the Right Software
Legal advocates carry a heavy responsibility for protecting client confidentiality, making it essential to choose communication software solutions with cutting-edge security capability as well as suitable functionality.
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