The Florida Bar’s Board of Governors approves Advisory Opinion 12-3 on cloud computing and protecting client confidentiality at its June 2013 meeting

Hello and welcome to this Ethics Alert blog with an update on The Florida Bar’s Ethics Advisory Opinion 12-3 on cloud computing and protecting client confidences when storing client records in the digital “cloud” using third party vendors.  The Florida Bar’s Board of Governors approved the opinion (with a minor revision to the final paragraph) at its June 2013 meeting in Boca Raton in conjunction with The Florida Bar’s annual convention.  Florida Bar Advisory Opinion 12-3 is at:,+OPINION+12-3?opendocument

The advisory opinion concludes that storing client confidential information and documents in the “cloud” is ethical with several important caveats:

This (Professional Ethics) Committee agrees with the opinions issued by the states that have addressed the issue. Cloud computing is permissible as long as the lawyer adequately addresses the potential risks associated with it. As indicated by other states that have addressed the issue, lawyers must perform due diligence in researching the outside service provider(s) to ensure that adequate safeguards exist to protect information stored by the service provider(s).  New York State Bar Ethics Opinion 842 suggests the following steps involve the appropriate due diligence:

Ensuring that the online data storage provider has an enforceable obligation to preserve confidentiality and security, and that the provider will notify the lawyer if served with process requiring the production of client information;


Investigating the online data storage provider’s security measures, policies, recoverability methods, and other procedures to determine if they are adequate under the circumstances;


Employing available technology to guard against reasonably foreseeable attempts to infiltrate the data that is stored.”

Florida now joins at least 11 other states which have issued ethics opinions finding that cloud computing is ethical and providing guidelines for its use.  Florida Bar Advisory Opinion 10-2 also provides guidance to lawyers to insure that confidential client information on the hard drives of discarded copiers, computers, scanners, and other electronic equipment is protected but does not address digital cloud computing.

Bottom line:  Although Florida Bar Advisory Opinions are for guidance only and are not precedential, Florida lawyers now have more clear guidance on the ethics of cloud computing and insuring that client confidences are protected.

Be careful out there!

Disclaimer:  this e-mail does not contain any legal advice and the comments herein should not be relied upon by anyone who reads it.

Joseph A. Corsmeier, Esquire

Law Office of Joseph A. Corsmeier, P.A.

2454 McMullen Booth Road, Suite 431

Clearwater, Florida 33759

Office (727) 799-1688

Fax     (727) 799-1670

About jcorsmeier

Joseph A. Corsmeier is an “AV” rated attorney practicing in Clearwater, Florida. He concentrates his practice primarily in the areas of defense of attorney disciplinary matters before The Florida Bar, attorney admission matters before the Florida Board of Bar Examiners, and professional license and disciplinary matters before the Boards of the State of Florida. He provides expert analysis and opinion on conflict of interest and other attorney disqualification and legal malpractice issues and he testified as an expert in the Florida courts. He served as an Assistant State Attorney in the Sixth Judicial Circuit from 1986 to 1990 where he prosecuted felonies exclusively from June 1987, and as Bar Counsel for The Florida Bar’s Department of Lawyer Regulation from 1990 to 1998. He also practices in the areas of estate planning and Medicaid qualification, workers’ compensation, and labor law. Mr. Corsmeier is the author of numerous articles for various bar publications, has spoken at numerous local and statewide seminars on various topics, including ethics and professionalism, and was an instructor of legal ethics for paralegals at Rollins College until the Tampa campus closed. He received his undergraduate degree from Florida State University and his J.D. from Mercer University. He is admitted to practice in all Florida Courts, the Supreme Court of the United States, the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, and the Middle District of Florida. He is a member of The Florida Bar, American Bar Association, the Association of Professional Responsibility Lawyers, and the Clearwater and St. Petersburg Bar Associations.
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