For most lawyers, travel time can be a productive time to getsome work done. But it's important to remember the need to maintainthe attorney-client privilege on a plane, a subway or a train.
Working while traveling or commuting "is a fact of modern lifeand practice," said Jared Correia, a practice advisor at the LawOffice Management Assistance Program in Boston.
"The key to remember is that you never know who is sharing spacewith you."
Nancy L. Hendrickson, a sole practitioner in Chicago who focusesher practice on business issues such as securities fraud andinvestment-related disputes, said she tries to avoid working onplanes unless she has to.
"You're in such close quarters, and you never know who may belooking over your shoulder," she said. "I am always very carefulabout what I pull out of my trial bag."
Hendrickson said she doesn't even like to use her laptop whentraveling because "they are just too easy and tempting to look atfor those who are inclined to be nosy."
Correia suggested that lawyers working on laptops while travelinguse screen shields to keep fellow passengers from sneaking a peak.
"With a screen shield ... only people who are viewing the screendirectly can see what is on it, so the people on either side can'tsee," explained Correia.
Avoid the free WiFi on planes or trains, he added, and use an aircard to make your Internet access more secure.
Robert Brownstone, technology and e-discovery counsel at Fenwick& West in Silicon Valley, emphasized the importance of encryptinglaptops and other portable devices so that confidential files cannotbe removed if the items are lost or stolen. It's also important toback up all the information on a laptop or device prior to a trip,and be sure to copy new or edited material upon return, he said.
Lawyers should also avoid carrying paper files, which can beharder to shield from prying eyes.
Correia, who works during his daily train commute, said hesometimes can't avoid carrying paper documents.
"I try to be as confidential as possible, putting the documentson the left side of me if I have someone on my right, and [keeping]the pages face down on my lap," he said.
Public phone calls also pose risks of breaching confidentialityand privilege obligations.
Airports, public spaces and trains "are too open and not privateenough for calls generally, let alone client phone calls," Correiasaid. He recalled a recent train ride where a fellow passengerrefinanced his mortgage, even stating his Social Security numberloud enough for everyone to hear it.
Never make calls to clients or conduct business calls in public,as "there is no way to protect yourself from confidentialityissues," Correia cautioned. "Opposing counsel could be sitting onthe same train."