JDSupra. Give Content, Get Your Clients Noticed?

Following the example of California criminal-defense lawyer Rick Horowitz, I signed up for JDSupra.com. JDSupra is a website that allows lawyers to share their work with the world. Why? Probably for the same reasons that we blog — the need to feel that we’re making a contribution? ego gratification? staking out territory — the human lawyer equivalent of peeing on trees?

No matter. I logged in, and started to upload my first document — the Texas Get Out of Jail Free Motion (that’s not a JDSupra link).

The Texas Get Out of Jail Free Motion‘s purpose is to get a lawyer who has been held in contempt out of jail and request a hearing before some judge other than the one toward against the contempt was allegedly perpetrated. I thought that would be a good and worthy contribution to the state of legal knowledge (every Texas trial lawyer should carry one in her briefcase).

But there was a hitch: in order to post the document, JDSupra required me to enter a case name.

Now, this motion is generic, so there’s no case name. But even if there were a case name attached, I wouldn’t put the case name up on JDSupra. Nor would I, absent some clear benefit to the client, publish the client’s name on the web in any other form.

Some lawyers don’t worry about bandying about on the web the names of people whom they represent or have represented. Aside from publishing documents with JDSupra, I’ve seen lawyers advertise the names of clients whose cases they’ve won (boooooo!) and blog about the names of clients whose trials are pending.

After all, the reasoning goes, the client’s name, the fact of representation, the case name, and the documents filed in the case are all matters of public record.

All true, but there’s more to it than meets the eye. Again, we confront the difference between law and ethics. The identities of our clients for whom we have appeared in court, as well as documents that we have filed publicly, are not privileged, though they might be confidential. The law (in Texas, the Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct) probably allows us to reveal these things.

But the fact that something isn’t privileged or confidential doesn’t mean that we, as criminal-defense lawyers, should reveal it freely. Our clients very rarely have anything to gain from seeing their criminal cases get more googlable.

When I begin to represent someone, the ultimate goal is a resolution that allows the client to expunge his record so that nobody can find out about the result. Revealing the name of clients online stymies that goal. Even after clients are convicted, so that expunction will never be an option, surely we have some responsibility to do what we can to protect their online reputations. We
don’t do that by uploading documents revealing their identities.

(I’ve asked Adrian L., of JDSupra, to give us an option to upload documents without case names.)

(Edit: Adrian L. patiently points out that clicking on “Legal Form” instead of “Legal Document” changes the form so that there isn’t a “Case Name” blank. Doh!)

0 responses to “JDSupra. Give Content, Get Your Clients Noticed?”

  1. You can do what I did: make up a case name. If you look at the posts I put on JDSupra, they all currently show the case name as something like “People v. Some Dude” and then show the title of the brief, such as “Petition for Peremptory Writ of Mandate and Request for Immediate Stay.” (I didn’t know about

    In addition, I printed the Microsoft Word documents in which I created my briefs to Adobe Acrobat PDF files after first redacting the documents to leave out the names of my clients.

    I agree with your comments regarding exposing the identities of clients, even though the documents are public documents. And, as you know, you already download many documents revealing people’s identities from court websites, Lexis, Westlaw, Findlaw and even just Google. Plus there are websites, like the one maintained by our county, where you can type in a person’s name and find all the cases, and their dockets, relating to that individual.

    Nevertheless, because I agree that we don’t need to add to this, I’ve redacted the documents I’ve posted to JDSupra and have changed the name in the title to “Some Dude.”

    Hopefully, he won’t sue me. 😉

  2. Hi Mark,

    Thanks for sharing your work on JD Supra. The sample motion you uploaded surely is a worthy a contribution – and one more way for people to find you online, understand the nature of your work and see (rather than simply be told about) your expertise.

    As Adrian mentioned, you can avoid the “case name” field by uploading a document as a “form” – you can also (and of course should where deemed appropriate) redact your client’s name and/or insert a fictitious name – both in the case name and throughout the filing or decision – e.g. “State v. [Redacted].”

    Hope this helps.

    We’re happy to have you with us.

    Aviva Cuyler, Esq.
    JD Supra

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