Attorneys love to publicize success stories. Posting about recent victories can valuable marketing tool to generate new clients. With an attorney a success story can often disclose details regarding clients, which could raise client confidentiality concerns.
In a recent action a board of Attorney Ethics filed a complaint against an attorney who publicized information regarding his representation of a client. The attorney’s article was about a discrimination case in which he represented an employee against his employer.
The disciplinary action against the attorney was based on critical comments made in the article regarding the trial judge. While the board determined that the statements regarding the judge did not criticize in a manner that prejudiced the administration of justice, the board nevertheless concluded that the attorney committed an ethics violation by not obtaining the client’s consent before publishing the article. The board stated consent was required because the article mentioned the client by name. The attorney appealed the ethics decision to the State Supreme Court, which ruled that the attorney didn’t need his client’s prior consent because the information published was publicly available, and dismissed the charges.
In this case the attorney’s conduct did not warrant disciplinary action. But even in victory the time spent in defending the attorneys action, takes away from the time spent being able to practice law. Lawyers must act cautiously when posting information regarding representation. Disclosures of confidential information, absent client consent, could violate the rules of professional conduct leading to costly disciplinary action.