A law student blog called Ambivalent Imbroglio posts a question, should summer associates blog about their experiences working at a law firm? From the perspective of a risk-averse professional responsibility teacher, the answer is clear: No, no, no. This student says his or her PR course didn't mention blogging, but that's probably not exactly true. The instructor may never have used the word "blog," but surely the point was made repeatedly that any intentional disclosure of confidential information is a violation of the duty of confidentiality, as stated in MR 1.6 and also in general agency law. That goes not only for explicit disclosures, but also thinly anonymized hypos that effectively reveal confidential information.
This prohibition also applies to disclosures by a lawyer that do not in themselves reveal protected information but could reasonably lead to discovery of such information by a third person. A lawyer's use of a hypothetical to discuss issues relating to the representation is permissible so long as there is no reasonable likelihood that the listener will be able to ascertain the identity of the client or the situation involved.
MR 1.6, cmt. . Remember, too, that confidentiality covers all "information relating to representation" of the client, not just communications subject to the attorney client privilege.
What about the exception for information that is generally known? Is that fair game for blogging? The "generally known" exception is not expressly part of MR 1.6, although I think it's a reasonable interpretation of the definition of confidential information. Section 59 of the Restatement does contain an exception for generally known information, and also provides a useful note in comment d: "A lawyer may not justify adverse use or disclosure of client information simply because the information has become known to third persons." Information is generally known if it is "contained in books or records in public libraries, public-record depositories such as government offices, or in publicly accessible electronic-data storage."
The best piece of advice, though, comes from a large-firm partner, commenting on this post:
I would be VERY, VERY careful about blogging your summer experience in any meaningful way. Obviously, steering clear of client confidences and matter-specific information is a given, but that's just a baseline. Speaking from experience on both sides at two large firms, hiring decisions can turn on the smallest things, and the single biggest candidate-killer out there is the "bad judgment" tag. If you show me that you're smart and hard-working, I can fix your analytical deficiencies or bad writing over time. If you show me you're able but lazy, I can help you improve your work ethic. If you show me bad judgment, I show you the door.
That's basically my reaction, too -- there's very little upside to blogging about one's summer experiences. Sure, it's a way to procrastinate, but so is sending e-mail to your friends or playing Minesweeper. Besides, and with respect to the firms and 2L summer associates, the experience isn't all that interesting. On the other hand, the potential downside risks are substantial since hiring decisions (and, I'd add, evaluations of associates already at a firm) depend on evaluations of the all-important, but somewhat ineffable quality of "judgment."