New York: Client’s Negative Review of Attorney on Social Media Does Not Justify Breach of Confidentiality

New York Ethics Opinion 1032 responded in the negative to an inquiry posed by a firm wanting to rebut accusations posted by a former client about the firm’s services on a lawyer-rating website. The Opinion grappled with the issue of whether a lawyer could rely on the self-defense exception to the duty of confidentiality set forth in Rule 1.6, incorporated by Rule 1.9(c) as to former clients. Rule 1.6(b)(5)(i) says that a lawyer ‘may reveal or use confidential information to the extent that the lawyer reasonably believes necessary … to defend the lawyer or the lawyer’s employees and associates against an accusation of wrongful conduct’ to disclose the former client’s confidential information in responding to a negative web posting, even though there is no actual or threatened proceeding against the lawyer.”

The Opinion found the above exception not applicable and concluded that, “[a] lawyer may not disclose client confidential information solely to respond to a former client’s criticism of the lawyer posted on a website that includes client reviews of lawyers.”

Click here for the full Opinion. For a related Legal Ethics in Motion blog post, click here.

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