E-mail Ethics

This issue continues to arise.

  • Lawyer represents Client.  Lawyer copies Client on an e-mail to Opposing Counsel.

As the South Carolina Bar concluded earlier this year, it is well-settled that “the mere fact that a lawyer copies his own client on an email does not, without more, constitute implied consent to a ‘reply to all’ responsive email.”   The opinion is here.  It’s the most recent (that I know of) to address the issue.  It came out shortly after I posted a blog entitled CC, BCC, and a lawyer’s duty of competence.

To those of you who copy your clients on emails to opposing counsel, be wary!  Yes, the opinion says that your “cc” isn’t necessarily permission for opposing counsel to reply to your client.  However, it also makes clear that, depending on the circumstances, the fact that you copy your client might imply that you consent to opposing counsel responding to your client.

But that’s not why I’m blogging.  I’m blogging because of a footnote in the South Carolina opinion.

You’d be surprised how many lawyers have informed me that it drives them batty to receive an e-mail from another attorney that the other attorney has copied to his or her client.  Per the reports i receive, when they ask the other attorney to stop, the attorney replies with something like “i’ll copy my client if I damn please.”

Of course you will.

And you’ll do so at your own risk. Because, what happens if your client accidentally uses “reply-all” to send what was intended to be a confidential and privileged communication for your eyes only?*

That’s where the footnote comes in.  Here’s what it says:

  • “[1] Although not before the Committee, the practice of copying one’s client – by either ‘cc’ or ‘bcc’ – when emailing with opposing counsel poses some risks. With a ‘cc’, a lawyer is disclosing his client’s email address, and with both ‘cc’ and ‘bcc’, the lawyer risks having the client ‘reply to all’ and potentially disclose confidential or other information. Seee.g., N.Y. State Bar Ass’n Comm. on Prof’l Ethics, Op. 1076 at ¶¶10 – 13. It is also not uncommon for a recipient of a group email to ‘reply to all’ unintentionally or without knowing the identity of each recipient, which in this context might expose the client to what were intended to be lawyer-to-lawyer communications. For these reasons, it is generally unwise to ‘cc’ a client on email communications to opposing counsel.”

As always, let’s be careful out there.

Hill Street Blues

 

* I’d completely forgotten that Sheena Easton sang the theme song.  She remains the only musician ever to appear on-screen in the opening to a Bond movie.

 

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Cybersecurity for Lawyers: learn from other professions

I’ve blogged often on tech competence and the duty to safeguard client data.  In short, lawyers have a duty to take reasonable precautions against the inadvertent disclosure of or unauthorized access to confidential client information.

So, people often ask “what are reasonable precautions?”

It depends.

Nobody likes that answer.  But it’s correct.

For instance, do you mean “what are reasonable precautions when it comes to cloud storage?”  Or, are you asking whether a lawyer has a duty to encrypt e-mail? Wait, maybe you’re talking about your duties when crossing the border? No, no, I get it now:  you’re asking if a lawyer has a duty to disable auto-complete. Oh my gosh, no – you’re referring to the hallmarks of trust account scams.

No matter the mode of communication, no matter the place that information is stored, a lawyer must safeguard client information. And, as I explained here, it makes perfect sense not to get into the habit of re-evaulating a lawyer’s duty with every new technology.  Whatever the next new thing is, a lawyer’s duty will remain the same: to take reasonable precautions against the inadvertent disclosure of or unauthorized access to client information.

But, as this post in the ABA Journal points out, lawyers and law firms aren’t sailing into uncharted waters.  There are lessons to be drawn from other professions.  Per the post, those lessons include:

  • Encryption is important.  I’d even venture to opine that if it isn’t already, we aren’t long for the day when the failure to encrypt is tantamount to a failure to take reasonable precautions.
  • Partners and more senior lawyers have to follow the same rules as everyone else. “I don’t do tech” isn’t reasonable. It’s no different from saying “I don’t do ‘protecting client information.’ “
  • Employees and 3rd party vendors need to be trained on the importance of data security.

There’s a great quote in the article. It’s from Michael Mason, chief of security for Verizon Communications: law firms should foster, grow, and ” ‘develop a culture of security.’ ”

A culture premised on “we hope it doesn’t happen to us” is not a culture of security.

With “it” being a breach, the dreaded “it” has happened not just to lawyers and law firms, but to many other professions.  As the ABA Journal suggests, lawyers would be wise to take heed of the lessons learned by those other professions.

Image result for data security

Hot Topics in Legal Ethics

I’m in Chicago at the Annual Meeting of the National Organization of Bar Counsel.

First things first: no, Cook County is not one of Vermont’s 14 counties.  However, very early this morning, I knocked out 11.5 miles in Cook County.  I ran a beautiful route from my hotel to Wrigley Field and back.  Most of the route was on the Lakeshore Trail along Lake Michigan. One lap around Wrigley made me feel very, very guilty . . . the setting is much nicer than Fenway.

Anyhow, back to business. One of tomorrow’s seminars is “Hot Cases in Ethics Opinions.” The material is posted online (NOBC membership required, so I’m not linking to it.)  Anyhow, from the material, it looks like the seminar will address 6 advisory opinions. The first 4 are:

  • Nebraska Ethics Advisory Opinion for Lawyers 17-03 (Cryptocurrency)
  • ABA Formal Opinion 477 (Securing Communication of Protected Client Information)
  • Illinois State Bar Professional Conduct Advisory Opinion 18-01 (Web Bugs)
  • ABA Formal Opinion 479 (The “generally known” exception to Rule 1.6)

Guess what? If you’re a regular reader of this blog, it’s like you’ve already attended tomorrow’s seminar!  That’s right, I’ve written about each of the first 4 advisory opinions!

So, what about the two others?

#5 in the material is a recent report from the Attorney Registration and Discipline Commission of the Supreme Court of Illinois. In the report, the ARDC seeks comment on its recommendation that Illinois relax its rules against attorney participation in for-profit referral services.  Robert Ambrogi blogged about the report for Above the Law.

I’ve not yet followed suit.  Why? Well, the report is 124 pages long.  Further, about a month after the ARDC issued the report, the company that recently acquired Avvo announced that it would discontinue Avvo Legal Services.  The ABA Journal reported on the announcement here.

I’ve yet to fully flesh out a blog that will cover both the ARDC report and the news that Avvo’s fixed-fee legal services plan has been discontinued. That being said: I’ve blogged a topic related to each: Fixed-Fee Legal Services: A Conversation Starter

Finally, #6 in the material is ABA Formal Opinion 472: Communication with Person Receiving Limited-Scope Legal Services. I’ve not yet blogged on the opinion. But I’ve discussed it at many seminars!  Also, the material suggests that discussion of the opinion will include a discussion the ethics of ghostwriting. As you know, I ain’t afraid of no ghost! I’ve tackled the topic a few times, most recently in Ghostwriting as Access.

Want to know what’s hot in legal ethics? Follow this blog!!

Ethics

 

 

Bouchons, Cybersecurity & Ransomware

Yesterday, I met with lawyers from the Lamoille County Bar Association.  Leslie Black, president-emeritus (by my proclamation) of the LCBA, had me up to talk legal ethics.

As an aside, Leslie stole the show by showing up with a fresh batch of bouchons.  You might have heard of Thomas Keller and the Bouchon Bakery.   Fine stuff, I’m sure.

Well, Leslie’s lemon bouchons, with a hint of cinnamon, are better.  And that, my friends, is not mere puffery.   The trick, je pense, is her brown butter recipe.

Leslie – les bouchons etait magnifique!

Now, back to business.

First off, I hope I’ve dispelled those who are less tech competent than others of the notion that “bouchon” has something to do with cybersecurity & ransomware.

Next, yesterday, we had an interesting discussion on cybersecurity & ransomware.  I’ve blogged previously on the issue here.  I’m blogging again for a few reasons.  Mainly, to stress a key point that David Polow made at the CLE:  back-up.  Storing info only in the cloud isn’t enough.

My prior blog post includes links to several helpful articles.  I failed to link to this one from the ABA Journal: Ransomware is a growing threat, but there are things you can do to protect your firm.  A critical point in the article echoes David:

  • ” The panelists say that the core of ransomware protection is a robust backup system. However, Simek said that backups need to be tested on a periodic basis.If a firm’s backup is in the cloud, then redundancies of that backup system should be made as well—in other words, one backup is insufficient. For the truly business-critical data, McNew said a backup should be stored offsite and ‘air gapped,’ meaning it is not able to connect to the internet.”

Or, as Jim Knapp says, when it comes to backup “onsite, online, air-gap.”

Are you likely to be targeted? I don’t know.  It happened to one of the nation’s largest firms.  And, a Vermont firm was targeted in April.  The firm did not have sufficient back-up and data was at risk.

If it’s an issue that concerns you, talk to someone with a tech background.  Here are a few links from my original post that might be helpful:

As always, let’s be careful out there.

Montreal?

There’s a lot going on in Montreal this summer.  Go! Be a #WellLawyer!

But, if you go, make sure you take reasonable precautions to protect client data at the border.

Today, I’m going to share a few old posts, as well as an updated advisory ethics opinion from the New York City Bar Association.

My old posts:

Last summer, the New York City Bar Association issued Formal Opinion 2017-5.  In short, and as reported by the ABA Journal, lawyers should take reasonable precautions to avoid the disclosure of client information during a border crossing.

Here are some highlights from the NYC Opinion:

  • Rules 1.1 (competence) and 1.6 (confidences) impose a duty to act competently to safeguard client information.
  • The duty includes taking reasonable precautions against disclosing information that should not be disclosed.
  • The duty requires “attorneys to make reasonable efforts prior to crossing the U.S. border to avoid or minimize the risk that government agents will review or seize client confidences that are carried on, or accessible on, electronic devices that attorneys carry across the border.”

Last month, the NYCBA reissued the opinion.  Some other takeaways:

  • Odds that a device will be searched might be low.  But, don’t discount the possibility.
  • The safest way to protect client data is not to bring any.  This might not be feasible given the increasingly blurred lines between “work” and “personal” devices, but it remains an option.
  • If asked to produce a device, an attorney should inform the border agent that it contains confidential & privileged information.  This triggers additional duties by the border agent before the search is conducted.
  • Finally, if a device is searched, an attorney likely has a duty to notify clients.

For more, see the opinion.

Adieu et bon voyage!

See the source image

 

 

 

Ransomware & Cybersecurity Insurance

As I’ve often blogged, Rules 1.1 and 1.6 require lawyers to act competently to safeguard client data.

Last month, I became aware of a law firm that was the subject of a ransomware attack. The cyber attacker blocked the firm’s access to client files and demanded a ransom.

Reminder: if a lawyer’s electronic files are compromised in a cyber attack, the question of whether the lawyer violated the Rules of Professional Conduct will likely turn on whether the lawyer took reasonable precautions to safeguard against the unauthorized access of client data.  In other words, being the victim of an attack is not, in & of itself, an ethics violation.

For example, consider two scenarios.

Scenario 1:  Lawyer operates a solo practice.  Lawyer employs a state-of-the art security system.  Nevertheless, a determined criminal uses C-4 to detonate into the office, into the safe, and then steals Lawyer’s files.

Scenario 2:  Attorney operates a solo practice.  Attorney keeps client files in an unlocked cabinet that’s on the front porch.  A lazy criminal walks up the steps, opens a drawer, and takes some of Attorney’s files.

Between the two, my guess is that a hearing panel is more likely to conclude that Lawyer is the one who took reasonable precautions against the inadvertent or unauthorized disclosure of confidential information.

In any event, on the subject of ransomware, here are few thoughts:

As always, let’s be careful out there.

Hill Street Blues

 

 

 

Disclosing Information that is Public Record

Regular readers know that I’ve often blogged on the distinction between information that is “generally known”and information that is “public record.”  For further reading, please see:

Last week, I posted a blog that looked at the other side of the coin.  That is, the side that believes that the First Amendment prohibits a state from sanctioning a lawyer who discloses information that is public record.  The post is here.   In it, I linked to a poll.

The post generated more than 300 views.  However, fewer than 10 people took the poll. Nearly as many complained that the post was too long.  It makes me laugh out loud – literally – that someone takes the time to send me an email complaining that a blog post that they chose to visit is too long.

While few took the poll, several sent me substantive comments.  Also, Jim McCauley, left a comment on the post itself.

Of the comments sent to me, the one that resonated most came from a reader who isn’t a lawyer.  Here it is:

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Layman’s view here…free opinion so you know what it’s worth.  In my view if it’s in the public record, it’s public.  It’s fair game.  It’s within the rules to comment on it as you will.  

It’s ethical.

But that’s not what we come to your blog for Mr. Kennedy.  We come to your blog to discuss the Rules for Professional Responsibility.  And it is my opinion that it is neither professional nor is it responsible for an attorney to blog, comment, write about, or discuss the specific affairs of a former or current client regardless of whether the information is in the public record or not.  

When a client hires an attorney they expect, reasonably or not, that that attorney will be loyal, above and beyond all. Disputes are often fraught with deep emotion.  Having your own attorney air your linen out in the public square, regardless of the result of the court process, breaches this expectation and undermines the high regard in which most attorneys are held. 

There are a few situations where something that is within the rules just shouldn’t be done.  This is one. 

Which brings me to another point:  The rules represent not the pinnacle but the bottom floor for professional conduct.  The minimum standard.  What you’re supposed to be doing anyway.   

I defer for illustration to a comedy piece by Chris Rock here.  Paraphrasing, Rock says he’s tired of people taking credit for things they are supposed to be doing anyway.  Phrases like “I pay my child support” or “I”ve never been in jail”, don’t impress him.  “You’re supposed to be paying your child support”!”  “You’re not supposed to be in jail”.  “You don’t get any extra credit for that!”.  

He says it much better than I write it here but the principle is the same. 

It’s up to lawyers not to do the minimum; meet the bottom standards.  They should be aspiring to surpass them.  That’s responsible.  That’s professional.    
 

Just my 2 cents.

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I don’t know that I’ll blog much more on this topic.  I’ve laid out the arguments. Fortunately, it’s rare that the PRP receives a complaint that alleges an unauthorized disclosure confidential information. In fact, I can’t even remember the last.  That’s a good thing.

Returning to the hypo I posted a while back, I don’t know whether the Vermont Supreme Court would conclude that the 1st Amendment prohibits sanctioning my attorney for disclosing information from my 2006 divorce that, while public record, is not generally known. However, I know that it’d bother me to no end to learn that my attorney had posted a blog with the embarrassing details of my case.

Now, I know what you’re thinking, and it’s not anything to do with Rule 1.6, Rule 1.9, or the 1st Amendment.  Nope.  You’re thinking “wait, Mike got divorced in 2006?”

Heeding my own advice, I intend to take full advantage of this opportunity to say nothing at all.

 

Be Quiet

 

 

 

Can a lawyer be sanctioned for revealing information that’s a matter of public record?

Today’s question: does the 1st Amendment prohibit the Supreme Court from sanctioning a lawyer who reveals client information that is public record?

Here’s how the issue would arise.

Rule 1.6 prohibits lawyers from revealing information relating to the representation of a client.  There are some exceptions.  They are:

  • disclosure is impliedly authorized to carry out the representation;
  • the client consents to disclosure;
  • disclosure is required by Rule 1.6(b); or,
  • disclosure is permitted by Rule 1.6(c).

As you see, “it’s public record” is not one of the exceptions.

Rule 1.6 applies to current clients.

With respect to former clients, Rule 1.9(c)(2) prohibits a lawyer from “revealing information relating to the representation as these rules would permit or require with respect to a client.”  Basically, the rule refers back to Rule 1.6 and does not include an exception for information that is “public record.”

Similarly, Rule 1.9(c)(1) prohibits a lawyer from using “information relating to the representation to the disadvantage of the former client except as these rules would permit or require, or when the information has become generally known.” (emphasis added).  As I’ve blogged several times recently, the ABA’s Standing Committee on Ethics and Professional Responsibility has opined that information that is in the public record is not necessarily “generally known.”  Here are the blog posts:

The October post includes cites to several cases that stand for the notion that the prohibition against disclosing information relating to a representation is not lessened by the fact that the information is public record.  Or, for a more detailed explanation how broad the confidentialy rules are, the ABA’s Litigation News ran this article by Edward Feldman.

But there’s an important case that holds otherwise.  The case is Hunter v. Virginia State Bar.

Attorney Hunter blogged.  His posts caught the attention of the Virginia State Bar and resulted in a disciplinary prosecution.  The  VSB charged Attorney Hunter with violating the advertising rules.  Those charges aren’t relevant here.

What is relevant is that the VSB also charged Attorney Hunger with violating Rule 1.6 “by revealing information that could embarrass or likely be detrimental to his former clients by discussing their cases on his blog without their consent.”

At a disciplinary hearing, the VSB put on evidence that Hunter’s former clients “believe that the information posted was embarrassing or detrimental to [them], despite the fact that all such information had been previously revealed in court.”

Hunter was publicly admonished following a conclusion that he had violated both the advertising rules and Rule 1.6.

In an intermediate-level appeal, a circuit court upheld the advertising violations, but dismissed the 1.6 charge on the grounds that the rule, as applied, violated the 1st Amendment. An appeal to the Virginia Supreme Court followed.

On appeal, the VSB conceded that the blog posts were about former clients, contained information that was public, and would have been protected speech if disseminated by the news media or anyone other than Hunter.

The Supreme Court noted that it had been “called upon to answer whether the state may prohibit an attorney from discussing information about a client or former client that is not protected by attorney-client privilege without express consent from that client.”

The Court’s answer:  no.  Specifically,

  • “To the extent that the information is aired in a public forum, privacy considerations must yield to First Amendment protections. In that respect, a lawyer is no more prohibited than any other citizen from reporting what transpired in the courtroom.”

The issue has gained some traction lately, largely in response to the ABA’s most recent formal advisory opinion.  Here’s an excerpt from a blog I posted last week.  It refers to criticism of the ABA’s opinion that “public record” is not necessarily “generally known.”

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“On that point, the opinion is not without criticism.  Check out the post from Above The Law.   Among other things, the author, Robert Ambrogi, writes:

  • “So a lawyer may not ‘reveal’ information that is contained in a public record. But how can someone reveal something that is already public? To reveal is to make something public that was secret.”

Interesting point.  I don’t necessarily disagree. However, on the flip side, what if you went through a messy divorce 10 years ago?

Imagine that it went to trial.  At trial, details emerged that remain embarrassing today.  Yes, the trial was public, but, really, in label only. Nobody went, certainly not the press.  The details are not, by any stretch of the imagination, generally known. The only way anyone could access the details would be by going to the great length of ordering a transcript.  Public? Yes.  Generally known? No.

How would you feel if your lawyer blogged the details tomorrow?”

************************************************************************************

Josh King is Chief Legal Officer at Avvo.  He commented on my post:

“Having hired lots of lawyers over the last 20+ years, of course I wouldn’t want them blabbing about my matters without my consent.

But there’s a difference between a best practice and what the law can prohibit. I’m quite sure that Rule 1.6 can’t constitutionally be applied to discipline a lawyer for stating something that is in the public record.”

Josh runs a blog called Socially Awkward.  He posted a much more detailed response there. You can read it here.

Keith Lee has a blog at Associate’s Mind.  In response to Josh’s post, Keith tweeted a quote from the Hunter decision:

 

Lee Tweet

Michael Cicchini is a lawyer in Wisconsin.  In 2015, the Vermont Law Review published his article On The Absurdity Of Rule 1.9.  Here’s an excerpt:

“Rule 1.9 is an absurdly broad rule that perpetually bans attorney speech  for all purposes and with regard to all information, including information in the public domain. The rule has no rational, underlying policy, and is not even rooted in clients’ actual expectations regarding confidentiality . . . Instead, Rule 1.9 should be interpreted to permit an attorney to discuss, write about, or otherwise disclose publicly-available information relating to a former client’s case, provided the attorney does not contradict the former client’s position in that case.”

I don’t know that I have a position, mainly because I’ve never had to think about it.  I know that most bar counsel types believe in the idea that “public record” is not “generally known” and, therefore, is not an exception to the general prohibition against disclosure stated in Rules 1.6 & 1.9.  More practically, I simply believe that it’s a good idea not to talk about a former client’s matter, even if the matter received widespread media coverage.  Also, for lack of a better word, it makes me squeamish to think of a lawyer disclosing information about a former client that, while public, almost nobody else knows.

Still, I’m sensitive to the First Amendment argument. And, despite my personal opinion that one should take advantage of every single opportunity to keep one’s mouth shut, I feel like the pendulum has started to swing swung back towards the debate’s equilibrium.

So, what say you? I’m a piece of clay.  Mold me.  Again, here’s the scenario:

  • You went through a messy divorce 10 years ago.  Mike represented you. The divorce went to trial.  At trial, details emerged that remain embarrassing today.  Yes, the trial was public, but, really, in label only. Nobody went, certainly not the press.  The details are not, by any stretch of the imagination, generally known. The only way anyone could access the details would be by going to the great length of ordering a transcript.  Public? Yes.  Generally known? No.  Yesterday, Mike blogged about them.

Should Mike be sanctioned? Discuss in the comment section, but keep it civil.  Or, take this poll.

Be Quiet

 

 

 

 

ABA & Client Confidences: It’s Deja Vu All Over Again.

Last December, I blogged on ABA Formal Opinion 479.  It’s an advisory opinion in which the ABA’s Standing Committee on Ethics and Professional Responsibility stressed that lawyers should not assume that they are free to disclose client information merely because the information is in a public record.

That’s a point that I made in my post Hey Lawyers! STFU!

To bring you up to speed, here’s the analysis with respect to current and former clients:

Current Clients

  • Rule 1.6(a) states that a lawyer “shall not reveal” information relating to the representation of a client unless (1) disclosure is impliedly necessary to carry out the representation; (2) the client consents to disclosure; or (3) one of the exceptions in paragraphs (b) & (c) is met.
  • Notably, “it’s public record” is not one of the exceptions in paragraphs (b) & (c).

Former Clients

  • Rule 1.9(c)(1) prohibits a lawyer from using information relating to the representation of a former client to the former client’s disadvantage unless the information is generally known.  The fact that something is public record does not mean that it is generally known.
  • Rule 1.9(c)(2) states that a lawyer “shall not thereafter reveal” information relating to the representation of a former client except as the rules otherwise authorize or permit. Nothing in the rules authorizes a lawyer to reveal information merely because the information is in a public record.

On March 6, the ABA released advisory opinion 480.  The opinion purports to address the duty of confidentiality as it applies to lawyers who blog.  The ABA Journal and Above The Law reported on the opinion.   In addition, Trisha Rich and Allison Martin Rhodes, law partners at Holland & Knight, blogged on the opinion here.

The opinion strikes me as a bit odd.

First, for an opinion that purports to address lawyers who blog, it really doesn’t.  Indeed, parts of the opinion come off as, how shall I say it, “less than tech savvy.”  For example, the opinion refers to Twitter accounts as a “microblogs . . . that ‘followers’ (people who subscribe to a writer’s online musings) read.”

Twitter is more than a place to read online musings.  Per the Pew Research Center’s latest numbers, 24% of U.S. adults use Twitter, and 46% of those who do visit Twitter every day.  Speaking only for myself, Twitter is where I get my news. I don’t go for “musings.”  I doubt so many Americans do either.

Next, as Attorneys Rich and Rhodes point out,

  • “The unusual thing about the latest opinion, though, is that it breaks very little new ground. The main point of the opinion is simply to reinforce to lawyers that their obligations of confidentiality always apply, even where a lawyer is communicating electronically.”

Indeed, the opinion makes me wonder why someone asked for it.  I mean, really.

As many of you know, whether by following this blog or attending my CLE presentations, I often urge lawyers not to fear tech.  Tech doesn’t require new rules. It’s simply a new forum in which the same old rules apply.  For example, many of the questions you should ask a potential cloud storage vendor are remarkably similar to the questions you’d want answered before renting a unit at the Store-All facility out on the Old County Road.

More specifically, would you have needed an advisory opinion to tell you not to reveal client confidences in op-ed pieces for your local paper? I doubt it.  Then why would you need an advisory opinion on whether it’s okay to reveal client confidences in a blog post?

Again, as Rules 1.6 and 1.9 make clear, unless one of the exceptions is met, IT IS NEVER OK TO REVEAL CLIENT CONFIDENCES.

Anyhow, the opinion isn’t entirely a restatement of the obvious. It includes a helpful tip on a pet peeve of mine.

At many of my seminars, lawyers pose “hypotheticals.”  Some are so detailed that I’d guess that half the audience knows who the lawyer is talking about.

Remember, “but I was at a CLE & said it was a ‘hypo’!” is not one of the exceptions listed in Rule 1.6.  Indeed, as the most recent ABA opinion reminds us:

  • “A violation of Rule 1.6(a) is not avoided by describing public commentary as a
    ‘hypothetical’ if there is a reasonable likelihood that a third party may ascertain the identity or situation of the client from the facts set forth in the hypothetical. Hence, if a lawyer uses a hypothetical when offering public commentary, the hypothetical should be constructed so that there is no such likelihood.”

Finally, as I alluded to above, the opinion reinforces the notion that “it’s public record” is not license to reveal information. On that point, the opinion is not without criticism.  Check out the post from Above The Law.   Among other things, the author, Robert Ambrogi, writes:

  • “So a lawyer may not ‘reveal’ information that is contained in a public record. But how can someone reveal something that is already public? To reveal is to make something public that was secret.”

Interesting point.  I don’t necessarily disagree. However, on the flip side, what if you went through a messy divorce 10 years ago?

Imagine that it went to trial.  At trial, details emerged that remain embarrassing today.  Yes, the trial was public, but, really, in label only. Nobody went, certainly not the press.  The details are not, by any stretch of the imagination, generally known. The only way anyone could access the details would be by going to the great length of ordering a transcript.  Public? Yes.  Generally known? No.

How would you feel if your lawyer blogged the details tomorrow?

In any event, from a practical standpoint, in law & life, I think it’s often best to heed the words of Thomas Edison:

“You will have many opportunities
to keep your mouth shut.
You should take advantage
of every one of them.”

 

Be Quiet