Secrets, Lies, And Misconduct That Attorneys Can No Longer Hide

Some things are supposed to be kept a secret. Your computer password, for example.

Nowadays, there’s a password to protect every aspect of your digital identity—from bank accounts to email to social networking. Meanwhile, it’s so hard to keep track of a unique 10-character alphanumeric code for each one.

But, according to Markus Jakobsson, security expert, the key to unlocking your brain-wracking password protection is a system called “fastwords.”

Think of a story. Now, transform the story into three keywords, such as “jogging, forest, squirrel.” Using three random words as a password means hackers are less likely to access your account, and you will be more likely to remember your secret identification information, which means, more importantly, those embarrassing photos from last year’s holiday party remain safely hidden on your hard drive.

Other indiscretions, like a criminal past, however, are more difficult to keep locked away.

On Tuesday, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission held a hearing on whether or not companies should consider job applicants’ criminal histories when making hiring decisions.

Although some companies are becoming increasingly concerned with security risks at the workplace, the EEOC’s priority for this new legislation is to ensure that mandatory criminal background checks do not unjustly or aversely affect minorities.

“This is also an economic concern for communities, because if ex-offenders are not given jobs the chances are that they may re-offend,” an EEOC spokeswoman told the WSJ Law Blog.

Minorities tend to be incarcerated at higher rates than non-minorities, and the EEOC has already sued companies for allegedly using the criminal background check process incorrectly. So this issue comes down to legal preferences and precedent, who wins—security or a person’s expectation of privacy?

Will candidates with a criminal record be punished twice? Once, with prison, and then again at job interviews?

Double jeopardy and second chances. These two issues affect more than just ex-cons. Attorneys, too, are preoccupied with concerns for confidentiality and equal employment opportunities.

In August, the Iowa Supreme Court will address this same complex secrecy issue. They will decide whether or not to offer lawyers accused of misconduct or facing disciplinary action complete confidentiality of their case in exchange for a voluntary license suspension.

The proposed rule changes hopes to expedite what typically constitutes a lengthy disciplinary process and long public, formal proceedings.

“Under the proposed rule change, lawyers suspended for stealing from clients, drug and alcohol problems, and neglecting important cases could hide what they did and resume practice without clients ever knowing what ethical violations they committed,” reports the Des Moines Register.

For attorneys in Iowa, mistakes may soon be washed away. How will your firm react to a change in legislation? Would your clients trust an attorney previously accused of misconduct? Do partners prefer more or less privacy for themselves and their associates? And, do your new hires have something to hide?

At least, for now, there are still some things you can keep “locked, safe, secret” with a proper password.

-WB

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