Legal conflicts for bloggers

David Fraser writes about potential legal conflicts for bloggers. He has also issued an invitation to other legal bloggers to initiate a discussion on the subject.

David Fraser also writes that:

Legal ethics say that a lawyer can’t reveal the identity of a client or do anything that may be prejudicial to a client, except with the client’s consent…

In this blog, I usually post about articles and incidents of interest that have a privacy angle. If I see an article or another blog post that deals with privacy, I’ll post a link to it. I hope that this blog is “one stop shopping” for everything of interest related to Canadian privacy law. But it simply can’t be. From time to time, a story hits the media that involves a client of my firm. Also, from time to time, I’ll get a call from someone in the media asking to comment on a privacy story that involves a client. I always decline to link to the story or to make the comment. Unless I have the client’s OK. (Which I’ve gotten from time to time, particularly if the result of the matter is public knowledge.)

My view is that lawyers who publish, whether through a blog or through more traditional print media, operate under a disability. They must not disclose client confidences and must not advocate a position that is contrary to their client’s interests. The magnitude of the disability is proportionate to the size of the firm that a particular lawyer practices with since conflicts are “shared” among the lawyers of a firm. It is less of a problem when the lawyer’s publishing activities involve ad hoc articles as opposed to the operation of a website or blog that tries to cover all developments in a particular area. I’m not a legal ethics expert but my view is that simply reporting other information that is already public should not create a legal conflict (although I can see that it could create a business conflict with a particular client). However, it does mean that the blogging lawyer will be limited in their ability to comment on a particular news item if such comment would be detrimental to the interest of a client of the firm. It likely also means that any third party comments will also need to be filtered so that they do not contain any content that is detrimental to any such client.