This week’s Career Center Summer Associate Tips Series focuses on the importance of maintaining client confidentiality. Nothing is more sacred to the legal profession than the confidential relationship between lawyer and client. This goes far beyond what is required by the rules of professional conduct. Your personal rule should be very simple — do not talk about the firm’s business, its clients, their problems, or anything related to them outside the four walls of the firm. With anyone. At any time. It is that simple.
The greatest risks are casual social comments. Somewhere in the middle of a case of Heineken you pass along information about something of great sensitivity to a firm client. It was an innocent, alcohol-induced disclosure on your part, but it was a disclosure nonetheless. Now, you may not worry about divulging sensitive information to a trusted friend or confidant, but the greater risk involves those comments made in restaurants, public places, or cocktail parties that directly or indirectly reveal the business of the firm or its clients.
The group at the next table may include three employees of the client, their banker or accountant, a competitor, or associates working for someone about to make a competing offer to buy your client. Trust me. They are there — perhaps not as nattily attired and lacking the Bombay Sapphire martini — but there nevertheless. It is not just legal advice or technically privileged information that you should refrain from discussing freely. It is anything about the client and their business. You risk immediate termination if you violate this rule.
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