Without getting too far into the nuance or the limited exceptions that apply, suffice it to say that attorneys are charged with keeping confidential their client’s secrets and privileged information.
But you didn’t need me to tell you that, did you?
It’s also the case that attorneys maintain a fiduciary relationship with respect to clients – we can’t abuse client trust or use confidences in ways that are harmful to our clients. We also shouldn’t embarrass our clients, even if the information we reveal isn’t confidential. 1 There are even obligations we owe potential clients. 2
But these rules are almost always very easy to follow by any attorney possessing sound judgment: Be discreet. Guard your client confidences. Think of your client’s interests first, always.
It’s simple stuff, really. But one place – besides blogging about clients – that the urge to publicly talk about clients can come up is when clients post negative online reviews.
Effectively responding to negative feedback is a subject deserving of its own entry, but one simple rule to follow is this: don’t succumb to the temptation to “set the record straight.” Not only is so doing ineffective, but it also runs the risk of revealing attorney client confidences. A growing number of attorneys have discovered this the hard way, incurring professional sanctions after posting client confidences in response to negative reviews:
- In re Skinner (Georgia, 2013)
- In re Tsamis (Illinois, 2014)
- People v. Underhill (Colorado, 2015)
- See ABA Model Rule 1.6. ↩
- See ABA Model Rule 1.18. ↩