Virginia Legal Ethics Opinion No. 1842 [2008]

Prospective Clients and Virginia Legal Ethics Opinion No. 1842 [2008], which describes the obligations of lawyers who receive confidential information from the law firm’s website or through voicemail left by a prospective client. The opinion discussed three scenarios.

(1) A voicemail from a prospective client. There is no ethical obligation to maintain the confidentiality of a voicemail from a prospective client. Further, the information may be used in representing the adverse party.

(2) Email from a prospective client. The mere inclusion of an email address on a website is not an agreement for an attorney-client relationship. However, the attorney-client relationship may be developed through the “specific nature and content of the invitation to contact the firm, including language in the advertisement or on the website that would imply the lawyer is agreeing to accept confidential information or an invitation in the lawyer’s outgoing voicemail message asking the caller to provide as much detailed information about his/her case as possible.”

(3) Information submitted through on-line forms. There is an obligation of confidentiality when the firm is inviting the submission of information.