Of course, can lawyers legally innovate might have been the more appropriate question.
This lawyer figured out a sure-fire way to drum up business: call into a competitor’s answering service, pretend to be one of the partners, and collect messages from prospective clients.
On a serious note, had the guy figured out how to get the firm’s e-mail messages, the papers would be abuzz with issues of authentication, security, identity, you name it. But because the lawyer figured out a low-tech way to intercept prospective business, the focus is (as it should be) on the criminal actions of the lawyer.
As Tim May (one of the founders of Cypherpunks) said at the 1995 CFP Conference, “my job as a cryptographer isn’t to make your data secure, because I can’t. My job is to make it more likely that you’ll try and bribe the cleaning service.”
Or the answering service, as it turns out.