Advisory Opinion: 2160

Year Issued: 2007

RPC(s):

Subject: ownership of electronic files


An estate planning attorney asks how the WSBA views the attorney’s electronic file of a client’s documents, if an electronic version of a client’s documents must be provided to a client upon request or if language in the engagement letter may exclude client access to electronic documents.

The attorney provided the following draft of a provision for review:

Upon completion of the work outlined in this engagement letter, you will be provided with the original documents that you signed, and one copy of each document, in paper format. You acknowledge that the electronic version of the estate planning documents is my work product and you have no right to receive a copy of the electronic file.

The committee opined that it does not, as a matter of policy, comment on specific language. In this instance, the client has been provided with the product contemplated, i.e., estate planning documents in paper format. Your provision to the client of the original and one copy of estate planning documents complies with the Rules of Professional Conduct.

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Advisory Opinions are provided for the education of the Bar and reflect the opinion of the Committee on Professional Ethics (CPE) or its predecessors. Advisory Opinions are provided pursuant to the authorization granted by the Board of Governors, but are not individually approved by the Board and do not reflect the official position of the Bar association. Laws other than the Washington State Rules of Professional Conduct may apply to the inquiry. The Committee's answer does not include or opine about any other applicable law other than the meaning of the Rules of Professional Conduct.