2 months ago

LSB April 2018_Web


RISK WATCH Is video-conferencing putting you at risk? GRANT FEARY, DEPUTY DIRECTOR, LAW CLAIMS It was not that long ago that videoconferencing was a new and expensive technology which was only available “at the big end of town” or in the Courts. Now of course, with the advent of Skype (and similar programs) and the ubiquity of smart phones, it is now possible to conduct video meetings easily and cheaply. Whilst the use of such technology can be of great assistance there are some real risks and practitioners need to bear these risks in mind so that they can be minimised. From time to time the Society receives enquiries from practitioners about the use of video-conferencing in legal practice. Such enquiries have related to whether it can be used to witness documents, identify clients or give advice. Law Claims is of the view that the witnessing of a signature should never be done via video-conferencing. An obvious difficulty is that the witness cannot be sure that the document sent to them to sign is the same document they saw being signed on the screen. A more fundamental problem, however, is the usual requirement in any witness clause that the person executing the document did so “in the presence of” the witness. There is Canadian authority (First Canadian Title Company Ltd v The Law Society of British Columbia 2004 BCSC 197) that the witnessing of documents via video-conferencing did not satisfy the requirements for a lawyer to witness documents as an officer under the British Columbia Land Title Act. Whilst there is no direct Australian authority on the matter, it is difficult to see that any Court would find this requirement of the witness being “in the presence of ” the person executing the document satisfied through a video-conference attendance. As always, the question of the proper identity of your client looms large – you need to be satisfied that you are advising the right person. Reaching this level of satisfaction via video-conferencing will obviously be much harder (if not almost impossible) if you have not met the client before. Dealing with clients via videoconferencing should therefore generally 28 THE BULLETIN April 2018 only be done when you know the client well enough to be sure they are who they say they are. Once you are satisfied as to your client’s identity it may be just as, if not more convenient to give advice or receive instructions via video-conferencing, rather than over the telephone. It will not be as good as a face to face meeting though, especially if you need to go through documents. Obviously, it is important to ensure that both you and your client can hear and see each other clearly and that the reception on both ends is clear and uninterrupted. It will also be important to know, and to remain apprised of at all times, whether there is anyone else in the room apart from your client who might influence them. It may not always be easy but it may be important to ensure that the client is alone, depending on the type of matter and advice to be given. Video-conferencing software will also generally have the ability to record the meeting for later reference which may be helpful, both for you and the client. A recording should however only be made with the consent of all parties. Consistent with our constant reminders to practitioners about cyber-security, the question of cyber-security as regards video-conferencing is also important. Video-conferencing equipment is extremely vulnerable to hackers. In the USA in 2012 a company specialising in cyber-security discovered 5,000 open conference rooms belonging to a range of businesses, including law firms, as a result of insecure video-conferencing systems. The company noted that businesses often invested large amounts of money in top quality video-conferencing facilities but set them up outside their computer firewalls, leaving the system open to attack. In the case of law firms the danger of inadvertent disclosure of confidential and privileged information is obvious. The dangers don’t stop there: even if your main office system is secure, lawyers working remotely (e.g. from home or in airports etc) via unsecured wireless networks are at risk. It may be that secure portable modems need to be employed. As has been noted before in these pages, technology can be of great benefit to legal practices, as long as the relevant risks are also borne in mind. VIDEO-CONFERENCING DO’S & DON’T’S • Never witness signatures via videoconferencing • Always take reasonable steps to properly identify your client • New clients should always be identified in person • Only give advice/take instructions if the audio and video reception is clear

YOUNG LAWYERS’ COMMITTEE What can the Young Lawyers’ Committee do for you? ERICA PANAGAKOS, BELPERIO CLARK & MELANIE TILMOUTH, TINDALL GASK BENTLEY (CO-CHAIRS OF THE YOUNG LAWYERS COMMITTEE) The South Australian Young Lawyers’ Committee (YLC) is a special interest Committee of the Society and an integral part of a young or newly admitted practitioner’s transition to the legal profession. Formerly known as the “New Lawyers Committee”, the YLC represents the interests of not only practitioners who are under the age of 35 but also those practitioners who are in their first five years of legal practice, irrespective of their age. The Committee represents the largest cohort of practitioners in South Australia in addition to law students and graduates. The National Profile of Solicitors 2016 report indicates that 31.1% of solicitors are aged 34 years or under, and 27.1% of solicitors had been admitted five years or less. The Committee’s main purpose is to promote the interests of young lawyers to the Society and the wider profession, and to further the development of young lawyers by organising educational, social, wellbeing and networking events and initiatives. Membership of the committee reflects diversity in experience, practice areas and employer type, including country practice, private practice, government, and the Courts, amongst other sectors. The YLC considers its members having diverse backgrounds and experiences to be important, particularly where 9.4% of young lawyers work in the country or hold employment in rural areas. Four of the Committee’s current members work or have previously worked in country locations. One of the YLC’s core responsibilities has been the establishment of the ‘Young Lawyers’ Support Group’, which comprises approximately 25 practitioners from various backgrounds who have agreed to assist, where possible, young lawyers who require independent guidance, particularly in relation to challenges faced by young lawyers in the early years of legal practice. The YLC also offers continuing professional development seminars throughout the year, often at no cost. The YLC’s yearly CPD program usually includes an ethics and wellbeing interactive seminar, and a performance review seminar to assist young lawyers to prepare for the often daunting performance review process that awaits them. The YLC offers regular events for new admittees to rub shoulders with leading members of the profession, including senior barristers and members of the judiciary. “Welcome to the Profession” events are an initiative of the YLC and are held twice a year at the Society. These events provide invaluable opportunities for newly-admitted lawyers to meet and network with members of the profession who they may not otherwise encounter or interact with, and introduce the new admittees to the benefits that come from holding membership with, or being involved in, the Society. One of the hallmarks of the work of the YLC is the hosting of social events to allow young lawyers to mingle with their peers, which is especially important for young lawyers who may be the only junior practitioners in their firms. The YLC encourages young lawyers to attend events such as the annual Golden Gavel competition, the Spring Gala and lawn bowls night. The YLC encourages young lawyers to attend events such as the annual Golden Gavel competition, the Spring Gala and lawn bowls night. Over the years, the YLC has also introduced events with the mental health and wellbeing of young and newly admitted practitioners in mind. The YLC holds a number of initiatives to help young lawyers achieve a healthy and balanced lifestyle including a mixed netball competition and an annual cooking class which focusses on quick, easy, healthy meals for young professionals. The YLC welcomes feedback and suggestions regarding initiatives that will assist young lawyers to develop and progress their careers. When you become a Member of the Society and are 35 years or less, in your first five years of practice or a law student, you will automatically become a Young Lawyer Member and receive invites to Social and Networking events, access to all the Young Lawyer wellbeing, education, advocacy and support services, as well as access to many other services, discounts and opportunities available through membership of the Society. Joining the Society is free for law students at any South Australian University, and is heavily discounted for newly admitted practitioners. If you have any questions or feedback regarding the YLC, or would like to become a Member of the Society, please contact Member and Community Services on 8229 0200 or After a considerable amount of effort by the Committee, we are pleased to report that the inaugural Young Lawyers Wellbeing and Salary Survey was forwarded to members by the Society on 9 March 2018. The results of the survey will be considered by the Society and the Committee and the survey’s key outcomes will be published in due course for the profession’s consideration. We hope that the survey will thereafter be conducted on a regular basis to track the progression of young lawyers and to assist in their development in the early stages of their career. April 2018 THE BULLETIN 29