The Hewlett-Packard Co.’s scandal involving a media leak from the boardroom has lawyers on high alert about how they and their clients obtain private information.

At issue is a controversial data-collecting method known as “pretexting,” in which false pretenses are used to obtain private data. That’s allegedly what happened in the Hewlett-Packard case, in which investigators allegedly posed as board members and members of the press to trick phone companies into releasing phone records.