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Emails on corporate account not private

I have been warning clients and others lately about a new online issue. In Holmes v. Petrovich Development Company, LLC, a California court ruled that emails sent by an employee to her attorney from a computer in her workplace were not protected by attorney-client privilege. This employee used a company email account (rather than a personal account) to send the emails. The company policy made it clear that emails could be monitored and were not private.

This makes it pretty clear that there is some risk (in California clearly, and everywhere else, probably) when using corporate email. Since your company probably has a policy that allows emails to be copied, read and monitored, you have little or no privacy in those emails.

If you send something to your attorney that you expect to be private, it will lose that privacy and could become public (and used against you) if you use your company email system.

This may not apply to use of a web-based email system with your own “private” address. But, the company might still be monitoring your computer use and might make a copy of your emails.

So, please don’t send me (or any lawyer) an email with private information (that you want to keep private) from your employer’s email account.