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Quote of the Day - If I rely on the user to remove metadata, a lot of that metadata is inevitably going to get through. It really needs to be automated. - Michael Silver
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Metadata May Get You Into Trouble Without You Even Knowing It

Here's a news flash from the American Bar Association's Standing Committee on Ethics and Professional Responsibility.

That's right. The ABA has invaded the tech world. They've turned into geeks, complete with white socks and pocket protectors. They've stepped into the world of metadata.

You may have heard of "metadata," a new term bandied about by the ABA in a recent ethical opinion. What is it? Metadata is data about data. It's the information that computer programs embed in electronic documents that you can access to discover who created the document, when it was created, which client the document was created for, what changes were made to the document, comments, and a host of other information you may not want people to know. If you want to see just the basic metadata, open a document, then click File | Properties. You'll be amazed.

Metadata can create problems. As just one example, the general counsel for a client of a well-known, very large firm did not get along with one of that firm's attorneys, and banned that lawyer from ever working on that client's matters. When the general counsel reviewed the metadata in one of the documents received from the law firm after the ban, the GC discovered that the banned lawyer had drafted the document. The firm lost the client.

Just imagine what opposing counsel wants to see in your metadata. Metadata also includes client comments in documents. Even if you delete it, the data may be recovered. Emailing a document to opposing counsel instead of sending it by fax opens up all kinds of possible waivers.

What's the solution? Strip the metadata from your documents before they leave the office. But let's get back to the ABA first for some other parameters.

The ABA has ruled that lawyers who receive electronic documents are free to look for and use information hidden in metadata, even if the documents were provided by an opposing lawyer. According to the ABA announcement:

"The opinion is contrary to the view of some legal ethics authorities, which have found it ethically impermissible as a matter of honesty for lawyers to search documents they receive from other lawyers for metadata or to use what they find. ...

Printer friendly page Permalink Email to a friend Posted by J. Craig Williams on Thursday, December 21, 2006 at 15:08 Comments Closed (0) |
 
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