Client’s name is confidential

Heather Milligan provides good advice to both lawyers and marketing folks.  Before disclosing the name of a client anywhere, get written consent from the client. Apparently, Quinn Emanuel did not do this … and is now being sued by the client. They allegedly disclosed what was supposed to be a confidential settlement as part of one of their promotional brochures. A definite “no-no”!


Having practiced law for 25 years before entering the attorney coaching and consulting arena, I am imbued with the rules of professional conduct. This admonition seems so basic to me that even though I currently am not governed by those rules, I still maintain the confidentiality of my clients’ names.

I am always uncomfortable when discussing this issue with marketing folks and lawyers looking to market themselves as they talk about client lists. Many look to the business world where sales people say that new prospects buy based on who is currently a customer. And therefore they list the names of customers. Yes, but! The legal profession is different. While the principle may be applicable to law as well — in other words, General Motors might want you to represent them if they know you have previous experience in the auto industry by also representing Ford — our approach must be different.

We are not permitted to publish the Ford name in our material (or even in conversation), without written permission. I maintain that, even with written consent, we don’t need to do this … and shouldn’t. Lawyers and their marketing folks are creative people. We can find other ways to disclose our knowledge of and expertise in the auto industry or any other industry in which we want to work.

Lawyers can be more creative than Quinn Emanuel seems to have been.


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