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Lawyer Confidentiality Matters

Lawyer Confidentiality Matters - Seattle Criminal Lawyer Blog

I am sitting at one of my favorite spots in Ballard on a beautiful summer afternoon.

Miro Tea. It’s great because the wi-fi is fast, it’s quiet, and you can sit on the sidewalk and work away while everyone else strolls by being relaxed. Since college I have loved working in this type of environment. Hey, it got me into Stanford Law School. So say what you will.

Years ago, it was the noisier the better, but these days I prefer the quiet click click click of bloggers blogging and soccer moms posting on Facebook to the loud rock-n-roll of my youth. It’s too distracting now when I am trying to do real work. But there’s a problem.

The problem, ironically, is that there is some lame lawyer sitting right next to me, practically screaming supposedly confidential advice into his cell phone for all of us to hear. In case any of us wonder why he would do such a thing, it might be relevant that he is saying the words “Lawyer” and “Court” over and over. And over. Gosh. He must be a lawyer.

Guess what? So am I. In fact, I actually know him, but unlike him I am doing my best to be inconspicuous and make sure nobody can see what I am doing. I was writing a brief, but he is so loud and obnoxious that I can’t concentrate. So, I thought it might be fun to take a short break and vent by slamming him as I wait for him to leave.

The real issue I have with this type of behavior is that it just doesn’t happen out here on the sidewalk on beautiful Ballard Avenue on a nice summer day. I see it in courthouses every day. Lawyers talking away with their clients about their cases without even bothering to lower their voices. Calling across crowded court rooms, blurting out information that is not meant for public consumption.

I mean, get a room people! They have them, you know. They are called attorney client conference rooms, found in almost every courthouse, and I basically refuse to talk to clients unless I am safely behind their closed soundproof doors. This one is a classic. He is using their actual names! I might even be the opposing counsel on one of these cases – which could be very interesting since he is blab blab blabbing away, discussing strategies and different approaches to the case, for me to hear.

What can he be thinking? Oh, wait. He isn’t. If he could think that deeply he might even be able to read. He might even be able to read the RPC’s, or Rules of Professional Conduct. RPC 1.6¬†for example. The one about confidentiality. The one that says we have to be super careful to keep all communications with clients confidential. I can tell you that his client has NO IDEA that he is broadcasting to the entire greater Ballard downtown core. They probably think he is sitting at his desk in his office behind a closed door.

But he isn’t.

I can’t wait for him to hang up. I want to smile at him and say, “Hey, Counsel.” It’s what the old dogs like me say to other lawyers when we don’t know their names. It’s a bit old school, I know, but we are supposed to be lawyers, not hipsters. It always makes the youngsters startle a bit when I do that. You can tell they are mystified how I was able to tell that the harried looking person in the courthouse elevator with the giant stack of files is a lawyer. But, they will learn. They’re obvious.

But not as obvious as this fool. I hope he reads this. I am annoyed that anyone who is charged with the sacred duty and honor to protect their clients’ lives would have so little regard for their privacy. Or for their own ethical obligations.

So, when you work with a lawyer, ask them. Do you sit in tea shops and scream at your clients on your cell phone? If they hesitate, find another lawyer.

One who can read.

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