ABA Issues Formal Opinion on Lawyers’ Use of Listservs

Lawyer listservs are often used by attorneys and other professionals to help keep up with changes in the law. But they pose some potential for violating confidentiality model rules

On May 8, the American Bar Association Standing Committee on Ethics and Professional Responsibility released  formal opinion 511 which provides guidance for when a lawyer can seek advice on a listserv. It finds that model rules in most cases forbid posting questions or comments related to representation of a client, even in hypothetical or abstract form.

“Formal Opinion 511 cites Rule 1.6, which deals with confidentiality and the possibility of unethical behavior under ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct. The formal opinion finds possible ethical problems ‘if there is a reasonable likelihood that the lawyer’s questions or comments (on a listserv) will disclose information relating to the representation that would allow a reader then or later to infer the identity of the lawyer’s client or the situation involved.'”

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