PDA

View Full Version : What if Lawyer Loses File?


Shotgun Man
08-22-2008, 5:31 PM
It was either posting this query in "off topic" or here. I figured I wanted to hear from lawyers, so I chose here.

Don't lawyers have the need to take their client files home with them? What if the file gets stolen or accidentally destroyed? What if you're on the eve of trial?

There's all this confidential information that has been stolen. What happens? Say the file is your trunk and your car gets burglarized? Are there liability issues? Will the judge give you a continuance? Do you get into trouble?

It seems a client file being stolen could have worse ramifications than a gun being stolen. Doesn't the lawyer oath say something to effect of "I will keep inviolate all client confidences no matter what peril to myself."?

What do you lawyers do if anything to ensure the safety of the client file? I would imagine you cannot be expected to much other than safeguarding it generally. No one can prevent acts of god or thievery.

JALLEN
08-22-2008, 6:26 PM
Sometimes it is convenient or necessary to take client files away from the office. There is a surprising dearth of confidential information in most files. I'm trying to think the last time I had truly "confidential information" in a file. If you are talking about a confession, etc., you almost never have those, and if by chance you happen to, maybe the safe deposit box would be the proper place for it. You don't really need to lug it around 24/7 anyway.

There could well be material in a file that you don't want your opponents getting hold of. So, make sure they do not.

A lot of "confidential material" is financial information. You must use proper safeguards for that, to be sure it doesn't become compromised. I suppose a client whose information was leaked or mishandled could/would sue for any resulting damages. There are Rules of Professional Conduct, ethics, that would have to be handled, too. It would depend on how the information got out. Frankly, most clients are none to good at this either. The information is a lot more secure in the lawyer's hands than in the clients, most of the time.

If "the dog ate your homework" on the eve of trial, that could happen to anyone, but it better not happen very often. Going to the court and explaining, begging for mercy, is the best way, and in fact, the refusal to give you some accommodation might well be error on the trial court's part, especially in the absence of circumstances tending to show carelessness on your part. Don't get a reputation for that foolishness, though. The hallways in back of the court rooms are one of the few places in the universe where the speed of sound is faster than the speed of light.

I think much of this depends on your practice area. I didn't handle criminal matters, so a great deal of this was avoided just in that.

RomanDad
08-22-2008, 6:46 PM
It was either posting this query in "off topic" or here. I figured I wanted to hear from lawyers, so I chose here.

Don't lawyers have the need to take their client files home with them? What if the file gets stolen or accidentally destroyed? What if you're on the eve of trial?

There's all this confidential information that has been stolen. What happens? Say the file is your trunk and your car gets burglarized? Are there liability issues? Will the judge give you a continuance? Do you get into trouble?

It seems a client file being stolen could have worse ramifications than a gun being stolen. Doesn't the lawyer oath say something to effect of "I will keep inviolate all client confidences no matter what peril to myself."?

What do you lawyers do if anything to ensure the safety of the client file? I would imagine you cannot be expected to much other than safeguarding it generally. No one can prevent acts of god or thievery.

In terms of storage and security- You buy firesafe file cabinets and store REALLY confidential stuff in vaults.... And you try not to take REALLY important files home.... And when youre done with the file, it gets shipped off to a place like Iron Mountain or gets shredded with a certificate of Document Destruction.....

As far as the ramifications- Its just like anybody else... The question boils down to "Is the lawyer Negligent."

If you have a file in your home and it gets burgled, or it burns to the ground, its pretty tough to make the argument you were negligent (unless you don't lock the doors or you were smoking in bed or something silly like that).

But if you leave it on a park bench... That might be a problem.

Its very rare that whats kept in a litigation file cant be replicated, and pretty quickly even... So if a catastrophe happened on the eve of a trial (and Im sure its happened) you would explain it to the judge and ask for a continuance until the damage could be fixed. They'd almost HAVE to grant it unless they KNEW it was a ruse (which if it were true, youd be in a house of crap)... Otherwise the whole case could be overturned on appeal.


In my personal experience, the first place I worked had a fire at off-site storage years earlier.... (mostly IRREPLACEABLE contracts and such). Whenever someone couldn't find a file or a document I needed, "It must have burned in the fire" was the instant response you'd get.... It didn't matter if the file was generated the week earlier... "lost in the fire" became the answer for EVERYTHING....

artherd
08-24-2008, 9:32 PM
What if the gov looses 4 million?

http://www.computerworld.com.au/index.php/id;50110485