INTRODUCTION. A search for the term “cloud” on Google no longer returns the familiar images of cumulus, stratus, and nimbus clouds. Rather, the search returns a flurry of cloud computing sources, advertisements and articles. Over the past few years, the general public has become increasingly familiar with the concept of cloud computing. Indeed, the general public has been using cloud functionality since the early days of America Online Mail. Modern technology, an evolving concept by infinite architects, is hard to define, and cloud computing is no different.
In very basic terms, cloud computing is a service that allows users to locally access an external server via a network or an Internet connection, thus permitting users to store and retrieve information and data in places other than on their own “home” network. In more technical terms, cloud computing is the outsourcing of third-party services, which may be accessed remotely over a network, usually the Internet.
One of the most prevalent cloud computing services is Dropbox. Dropbox is a free file-hosting service that offers cloud storage and file synchronization. Dropbox is quickly becoming the staple of cloud computing storage because it is easy to use, free, and allows you to “be anywhere.” The legal profession does not escape Dropbox’s appeal, and it is important that attorneys using Dropbox recognize the risks involved, including the possibility of putting their licenses in jeopardy.
This Comment explores cloud computing within the practice of law. This Comment first discusses the advantages and disadvantages of cloud computing, specifically those that may affect the practice of law. Second, this Comment examines the developing legal and ethical issues that arise from the use of cloud computing technology, primarily Dropbox. After a brief introduction to the American Bar Association (ABA) and the North Carolina State Bar, this Comment analyzes three amendments to the Model Rules of Professional Conduct that were introduced by the ABA Commission on Ethics 20/20. It then addresses the consequences that these amendments have on preserving the attorney’s duty of confidentiality when using cloud computing technology. Finally, after illuminating the gaps in the current unamended rules, this Comment introduces recommendations to better protect both attorneys and the public from unauthorized disclosure of confidential client information as a result of an inadvertent breach of the duty of confidentiality.
AUTHOR. I want to thank my wife, Bethany, for her patience and support not only during the writing of this Comment, but also throughout law school. I would also like to thank Professor Bobbi Jo Boyd for offering feedback and direction when my Comment needed it most. Lastly, I want to thank you for taking the time to read my Comment.