For mobile/virtual business owners meeting clients in public is pretty common practice. This article will introduce the discussion of protecting your client’s privacy in the process.
Whether you own a mobile/virtual business or not, you’ve likely taken advantage of a coffee shop or other public venue to meet with a client. NOTE: If you have done this then you have whether knowingly or not, utilized the convenience of a mobile office and an Office Without Walls™). Starting out I did this exclusively to keep my overhead down and more and more this the preferred method of avoiding costs for office space where it’s not necessary.
Cross those widely known points with one of the most common questions I get after presentations which is “aren’t you concerned about violating client privacy in public?” and you get to what inspired the topic of this article.
Although client privacy, the Model Rules and fiduciary duties for business owners are commonly addressed topics especially in a digital age, most literature on the subject points to concerns with things like electronic data and data breaches, and there isn’t much written content available on the topic as it relates to client meetings in public, and public disclosures specifically.
- Physical Positioning & Awareness
Awareness of your surrounding should begin before you even arrive at a meeting location. Visit in advance if possible or look for photos online if you are not already familiar with the venue set-up. Arrive early and position yourself in the ideal location so you’re not asking the client to move or rearrange themselves.
Plan to place yourself in a seat with your back to the wall. Be mindful of what is on the wall behind you when you do this and make sure that an unintentional reflection of what is on your laptop screen doesn’t undue your efforts at maintaining privacy. Be mindful throughout the course of the meeting with your client. Share tangible and digital information with an awareness of who can see it other than the client and yourself.
- Presentation Styles
Choose the presentation style you want to utilize with a consideration for how it will not only impact actual privacy concerns but also your client’s perception of your interest in those concerns. Your client should feel comfortable and that you are being mindful of their information and privacy. Consider how you might be able to address perceptions while at the same time contributing to the overall client experience while in your mobile office.
For example, think about using tablets to present Power Points, Spread Sheets, PDF files and more. If you are proficient enough keep a stylus and use it as a note pad to jot notes. Save the work for future reference or easily share it with team members later. Tablets sit flat on a surface and minimize the risk of unknowingly broadcasting information to third parties.
- Noise/Voice Volumes
Use noise canceling headphones for over-the-phone meetings in public. You will avoid distractions while keeping hands free and protecting others from hearing your conversation. Be mindful that the volume of your own voice doesn’t defeat the purpose of your efforts.
- Privacy Screens
A computer privacy screen, sometimes called a privacy filter, is a thin piece of plastic that’s placed over your monitor or display panel in order to prevent wandering eyes from absorbing confidential information. You may have seen a similar device at the bank if you’ve ever tried to peek at your account balance when the teller walked away. Privacy filters use the same type of technology.Strong passwords, anti-virus software, data encryption, and heightened awareness go a long way toward keeping your information secure, but they can’t defend against visual hacking. Computer privacy screens protect against this serious security threat by simply adhering to your laptop screen or desktop monitor to restrict the device’s viewing angle so that only the person in front of the screen can see what’s on it. Anyone attempting to steal a glance from the right or left will only be able to see a blank screen.In my Office Without Walls™ Wednesday video from last week https://www.youtube.com/user/Sahmra1331 (August 7th) I mention privacy screens and you can find examples on my Amazon list here: https://www.amazon.com/hz/wishlist/ls/32W6C1TRC8T3K?ref_=wl_share
- Monitoring the Presence of “Guests”
When meeting in public the presence of “guests” should be treated the same as in a traditional office. They should generally not be allowed. If privacy and confidentially is an issue (or if you’re not sure of a potential harm) ask that a client’s guests find their own place to sit or maybe that they leave and return at a time when it is most appropriate for them to be there.
- Secure Virtual Connections -virtual meetings and virtual collaboration
Does the application you are using to connect with client virtually have security capabilities that meet your needs? Client controlled tools include selective meeting invitations, meeting details and application security and E2E chat encryption. Session keys should be generated with a device-unique hardware ID to avoid eavesdropping and/or data being tampered with or read from other devices.
When choosing a provider or software for your virtual meetings ask about the following options
- Host & Client Authenticated Meetings
- Open or password protected meetings
- Edit or deleting records of meetings
- Host controlled joining meeting
- User Authentications
- Take Your Trash With You!
This is an easy one but one that is also easily overlooked. Make it a practice to not throw away notes or documents of any kind in public trash cans or receptacles. Tearing the page does not solve the problem either. Take it with you and dispose of it in a controlled environment. When appropriate make a point of showing your client that you are doing so that they are aware of your efforts. It will increase trust and put you both on the same page with one another about protecting the content of your meeting.
- Communicating Internal Policies/Procedure With Clients
There is no better cure for misunderstanding than communication in advance. Address your business policies with regards to privacy, the use of technology, public meetings and all other aspects of managing a mobile, virtual or hybrid office. This should be done as soon as the client is brought on board in a welcome letter. An informed client is the best kind and having things written out will keep everyone in the case on the same footing as to what to expect, how and when.
Communicating expectations early on and in a manner that is complete and easy to understand will build your client’s confidence in your abilities. Clients might also be more forthcoming with sensitive information that helps you do your job is they know that it will be handled in a way that meets their expectations.
- Know Any Venue Requirements Beforehand
When utilizing meeting rooms and more formal public spaces, find out if there is a sign-in required and if your client will be expected to give his/her name, show ID or the like. Some clientele may not be on board with creating a record of your meeting. Find out in advance to avoid an embarrassing interaction. If he meeting is of such a variety you might go as far as to heck for the placement of security cameras and other security equipment in lobbies and parking lots. You should of course be billing for those kind of efforts and your client should be aware of the lengths you have gone to if you do (wink-wink).
- Use Good Judgment
No matter how many steps you take to protect yourself and your client in advance, the use of good judgment is your best defense against unintentional breaches.
By, Sahmra A. Stevenson, Esq. (“Your Happy Family Law Attorney”)
S.A. Stevenson Law Offices, LLC
For inspiration, motivation and outside-the-box ideas for living a healthy and happy work life follow me on Instagram @SahmraStevensonEsq or @OfficeWithoutWalls
Or tune in for video content at….YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC2XcEIoaCJ-3VoaXNnT0pwQ
Facebook: @SASLawOffices; www.saslawoffices.com; www.officewithoutwalls.org