Friday, June 09, 2006

Blogging and Professional Responsibility

One of the "guest diarists" at the Daily Kos quit in a huff yesterday after he claimed to have had his secret identity "outed" by National Review in a typical Right Wing Conspiracy plot. Of course, his identity wasn't that secret, and his real reason for quitting might have more to do with the Kossack Crowd being unimpressed with his ties to something that rhymes with "Bal*Mart":

Apparently, [Daily]Kos diarist Armando Lloréns-Sar isn't comfortable with too many people knowing about his day job as an attorney at McConnell Valdés (it's clearly the same guy):
...Lloréns-Sar might be uncomfortable with too many people knowing about his professional activities (he threatened to ban one commenter for getting too close to his "personal circumstances"):

During his time filling in for Kos as the "front page diarist" he wrote a number of pro-corporate articles, of course without disclosing that he is a corporate attorney promoting these same issues for his clients. For example, in this post he takes the pro-corporate position that modern anti-trust law is based on activist judges' rulings and not as the law as written. He fails to mention that he recently represented Wal-Mart in an anti-trust capacity in Puerto Rico.

H/T WuzzaDem, whose emphases those are.

As much fun as it is to gloat at the silliness of the Kos types, the story really made me think in broader terms of what's acceptable for an attorney who, say, might want to blog about legal issues. What obligations do you have to your clients? To your firm? What duties of disclosure do you have towards your blogging audience? What does the crusty old judge at the ethics board of inquiry who's never heard of a blog think? Does it matter that you do it on your own time? Or anonymously?

I did some research earlier this year on "Doocing," the firing of an employee for un-careful blogging. It's amazing how easy it is for someone to find your real identity, either by doing a little digging, or by simply getting a subpoena for the ISP. A corporate client who happens to run across something unflattering on a hugely popular website (or unpopular, but still public) would seem to me to be a danger, and something to think about.

But what if it's just a more general legal issue, one that you were inspired to muse about because a case you were working on dealt with that issue? Is that allowed? Should it be? How general does the issue have to be? Does it impact your ability to represent your client? Can a client trust a blogging attorney not to tell their story on line with a, "for example, I had a client once..."? How much detail can you go into about your work day on a blog without violating the PR rules? Does a pseudonym protect you?

This is actually one of the reasons I post here under my real name - I don't want to lull myself into a false sense of anonymity. And it makes clear that what I write I have to answer for, which (usually and hopefully) makes me a little more cautious about what and how I write. That's not to say a nomme de plume doesn't have a time or place - the Federalist Papers weren't written by 1800 year old Romans, after all.

The Kossack writer was a fool, though. He was indiscreet, apparently bitterly acerbic and rude (even to his fellow travelers), used his real first name, and littered the internet with personal details that made him easy to find, including his E-mail address when he tried to edit some Wikipedia entries about the Daily Kos. I don't know the answers to all of this, but one things for certain - Armando is a great example of what a lawyer should NOT do on line.

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