Blogging lawyers are not like ordinary bloggers. Most bloggers don’t have to worry about the issue of conflicts of interests and client confidentiality. Lawyers, on the other hand, have to worry about legal ethics. Since I started blogging more than three years go, it’s been an issue that I’ve always had to keep in the back of my mind every time I even think about a blog post. With the plethora of blogging lawyers, I am surprised that I haven’t seen much discussion on the topic. (If there has been, please point me to it!)
I blog primarily in the area of privacy law. Ideally, I would want my blog to be a complete and up-to-date resource on what’s happening in privacy law but client loyalty has meant that there are some significant gaps in what I can write. Sometimes a notable story hits the media which I’d love to report on my blog, but there’s always a possibility that the parties involved may be a client. In my case, I work for a firm of over two hundred lawyers in five offices. We have a vast number of clients, many of which are multinationals thanks to Nova Scotia's cross-border friendly Companies Act. They may not be a current client and I may not have any first hand knowledge of the situation, but the problem of deemed knowledge and client loyalty mean that I have to hesitate before writing about it. If the minute book of the company or any of its affiliates is on a shelf in our corporate services department, I can’t say a peep.
The legal blogosphere would benefit tremendously, I think, from a discussion about client confidentiality and the blogging lawyer. My practice may be bordering on the paranoid side, which usually involves the following practices:
- If there’s any possibility that any of the parties involved are or were a client of your firm, run a conflict search and do not post anything.
- If any of the parties involves is a client or former client, don’t write anything unless you have the client’s permission.
- If you have any “inside knowledge” of the event, don’t write anything unless you have the client’s permission.
Is this taking it too far? Not far enough? Conflicts and client confidentiality may be one reason that is holding back lawyers from blogging. A consensus on best practices would benefit us all.
Please feel free to comment on this post with your thoughts on the issue.