Wednesday, September 11, 2013

More on the issue of violating conflidentiality when replying to an on line review

A couple of days ago I posted a note on a recent complaint filed alleging an attorney disclosed confidential information when replying to a negative on line review.  Today, the Legal Ethics Forum picked up the story and added a couple of interesting questions:  whether the "self-defense" exception in Rule 1.6(b)(5) would ever authorize a lawyer to respond to a negative on-line review of the lawyer's services and whether a lawyer who wants to exercise control over his or her on-line reputation could have as part of the retainer agreement a provision where the client agrees not to post any reviews of the lawyer's services (if the client did post something, the attorney could then have a breach of contract action).  Take a look at the comments section of the Forum where you will find links to relevant materials on these issues.

My own opinion on the first question is that there is nothing that prevents a lawyer from replying to a review but the lawyer has to be careful not to disclose more information than necessary.  For other comments on this issue, go here. In most cases, the attorney can defend his or her reputation without the need to disclose information that is not public already.  The problem in the Illinois case was not that the attorney replied to the review, but that he disclosed more information than was necessary.