Tech Competence, Screen Sharing, and Client Confidences.

Around 1PM, it felt like (another) day without a blog post.  Then, I went to lunch.

My office is in downtown Burlington.  Today, and despite the heat, I chose to walk to Beansie’s.


Waiting for my cheeseburger topped with peppers & onions, I checked my email.  There, I found the first of two stories to post.  Perusing my phone while I ate my burger in the shade[1], I found the second.  Each involves technology.  As we know, a lawyer’s duty of competence includes tech competence.

Story 1

A Vermont lawyer forwarded me an email from another lawyer in the same firm.  The co-worker wrote:

  • “I’m in a deposition – other attorney’s email notifications keep popping up on screen share.  Seems like that could risk divulging attorney-client privileged information.”

Yes. Yes, it could.

I can sense some of you disagreeing.  You’re thinking “what could be privileged about an email notification?”

Well, I don’t know.  That’d be for a court to decide in the context of an attempt to compel disclosure.

But I do know this.

Rule 1.6 of the Vermont Rules of Professional Conduct prohibits a lawyer from disclosing information relating to the representation of a client. As I’ve oft stated in this space, Comment [3] makes clear that the rule’s prohibition is broader than the privilege.  The comment notes that the privilege applies “in judicial and other proceedings in which a lawyer may be called as a witness or otherwise required to produce evidence concerning a client.”  It goes on to state:

  • “The rule of confidentiality applies in situations other than those where evidence is sought from the lawyer through compulsion of law. The confidentiality rule, for example, applies not only to matters communicated in confidence by the client, but also to all information relating to the representation, whatever its source.  A lawyer may not disclose information except as authorized or required by the Rules of Professional Conduct or other law.”

Neither the Rules nor other law include an exception for “it popped in while I was sharing my screen.”

The internet includes a plethora of resources on the various ways to avoid this problem.

I present a lot of CLEs via Zoom, WebEx, and Teams and often share my screen throughout a presentation.[2]  I’m petrified of having an email notification pop up and disclose (to some extent) a confidential inquiry of bar counsel.  So, I go old-fashioned.  When presenting, I close Outlook and all chats functions.

As always, be careful out there.


Note: In that I strive to avoid TLDR in the comments, Story 2 will follow later today or early tomorrow.  Stay tuned.

[1] Many readers know my preference for summer over winter. I suppose this week’s weather has some considering whether to ask, “how do you like summer now?”  Just as much as I did before!  Because in January, I wouldn’t be able to walk over to Beansie’s in shorts and t-shirt and enjoy my lunch outside.

[2] I also make sure that the only screen open is the one that I intend to share and that I choose that particular window instead of “screen 1” when I start the share.

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