find the latest legal job
Part Time Risk & Compliance Officer
Category: Other | Location: Brisbane QLD 4000
· Brisbane City · Flexible Part Time Hours
View details
Infrastructure Lawyer/SA
Category: Construction Law | Location: Sydney CBD, Inner West & Eastern Suburbs Sydney NSW
· Global elite law firm · Dedicated Infrastructure team
View details
Property Lawyer
Category: Property Law | Location: All Melbourne VIC
· 12 Month Contract · Diverse Work
View details
Family Lawyer
Category: Family Law | Location: Eastern Suburbs Melbourne VIC
· Boutique Firm · Great Reputation
View details
Infrastructure Lawyers
Category: Construction Law | Location: All Perth WA
· We'd be particularly interested to hear from you if you were a lawyer who knows your way around the infrastructure and energy sectors.
View details
Spying case raises questions of liability

Spying case raises questions of liability

Allegations that Australia spied on a US law firm have cast a spotlight on the extent to which a firm is liable for a security breach.

Former NSW legal services commissioner Steve Mark (pictured), who now runs a professional services consultancy, told Lawyers Weekly that firms are almost always legally bound to protect client information from security breaches, including third party surveillance.

His comments follow reports that the Australian Signals Directorate listened in on the communications of an unnamed American law firm while it was representing Indonesia in a trade dispute with the US, according to a document obtained by the New York Times.

Chicago-based global firm Mayer Brown, which The New York Times reported was advising Indonesia at the time, said there was no sign that the firm was the target of the alleged surveillance.

While a case like this is rare, Mark maintained that the threat of surveillance was a reality for law firms.

“Most of the attacks on law firms – and they are happening – are for commercial information,” he warned.

The ethics rules of the American Bar Association require lawyers to “make reasonable efforts” to protect confidential information from unauthorised disclosure to outsiders.

While there is no such explicit rule in Australia, the fiduciary lawyer-client relationship creates legal duties under general law, said Mark.

“The problem that lawyers have is that they get so used to referring to rules.

“Common sense must prevail ... lawyers have a definite duty to maintain the confidentiality of client information and there are only extreme circumstances where that can be overridden.”

An example of an “extreme circumstance” is if a client discloses to their lawyer the intent to commit a crime.

Mark urged firms to devote more resources to shielding client information from prying eyes and other security breaches. The disposal of computers is just one area where firms are not taking adequate precautions, he added.

“You can go to a tip and find out as much as Assange knows because the only way to destroy what’s on a computer is degassing it, demagnetising it or melting it.

“Most firms simply wipe [a computer] and give it away, but there’s still information on it.”

Like this story? Read more:

QLS condemns actions of disgraced lawyer as ‘stain on the profession’

NSW proposes big justice reforms to target risk of reoffending

The legal budget breakdown 2017

Spying case raises questions of liability
lawyersweekly logo
Promoted content
Recommended by Spike Native Network
more from lawyers weekly
Violence
Nov 17 2017
It's time for politicians to commit to eradicating domestic violence
The national shame of domestic violence cannot be left unaddressed, writes Christine Smyth. ...
Nov 16 2017
From lawyer in law firm to senior governance professional
Promoted by Governance Institute of Australia As a law graduate, Kate Griffiths never imagined...
marriage equality
Nov 16 2017
Legislation the next hurdle for marriage equality
Lawyers have underscored the importance of ensuring same-sex marriage legislation does not limit ant...
APPOINTMENTS
Allens managing partner Richard Spurio, image courtesy Allens' website
Jun 21 2017
Promo season at Allens
A group of lawyers at Allens have received promotions across its PNG and Australian offices. ...
May 11 2017
Partner exits for in-house role
A Victorian lawyer has left the partnership of a national firm to start a new gig with state governm...
Esteban Gomez
May 11 2017
National firm recruits ‘major asset’
A national law firm has announced it has appointed a new corporate partner who brings over 15 years'...
opinion
Nicole Rich
May 16 2017
Access to justice for young transgender Australians
Reform is looming for the process that young transgender Australians and their families must current...
Geoff Roberson
May 11 2017
The lighter side of the law: when law and comedy collide
On the face of it, there doesn’t seem to be much that is amusing about the law, writes Geoff Rober...
Help
May 10 2017
Advocate’s immunity – without fear or without favour but not both
On 29 March 2017, the High Court handed down its decision in David Kendirjian v Eugene Lepore & ...