In an earlier post I mentioned lawyers who use former clients’ names in their advertising. Today I stumbled upon a post that Florida public defender Albert Clifford wrote on Ethical Blogging back in February. He wrote (in part):
I represent poor people who have no choice in their selection of me. I try to keep them happy with their decision, thus I don’t think that I should ever write anything identifiable about any client without express permission. Further, because of my unique position of power, given that they really can’t fire me, I wouldn’t feel that anything other than an unsolicited appeal by a client for me to publicize their plight would qualify as a free and voluntary waiver of the priviledge of confidentiality I owe them about their case, including any public facts. After all, I argue about the coercive effects of government action, so how hypocritical would I be if I even suggested that my ‘request’ to a client for permission to write about their case would elicit a truly voluntary, intelligent, and uncoerced decision for such permission? Just my two cents.
I like Albert’s position, and I think it’s the right approach for private lawyers as well. I would take it a step further: even if a client makes an unsolicited appeal for the lawyer to publicize the client’s case, the lawyer (who knows, better than the client, the detriment that a mere unproven accusation of criminal wrongdoing can cause) should generally refuse.