You Can’t Disclaim Being A Lawyer, So Why Bother?

I’ve always laughed at those lawyerswho  draft these types of overblown disclaimers, primarily because lawyers should know better.  For that reason, you’ll find no disclaimers at MyShingle because they don’t do any good.  You can say that you’re not creating an attorney-client relationship ten different ways, but the bottom line is that if it looks like an attorney-client relationship and smells like one, chances are the courts will deem it one.

And that’s precisely the result described in this article Caveat Doesn’t Negate Privilege, Ninth Circuit Rules, David Hudson, ABA e-report (7/1/05) which reports on a recent Ninth Circuit decision that found that potential plaintiffs’ responses to law firm  questionaires seeking information on class action claims are covered by attorney client privilege and hence, not discoverable in litigation.  The court arrived at this conclusion despite a box for respondents to check, indicating an understanding that filling out the questionaire did not create an attorney-client privilege.

The court reasoned:

Prospective clients’ communications with a view to
obtaining legal services are plainly covered by the attorney-client
privilege under California law, regardless of whether they have
retained the lawyer, and regardless of whether they ever retain the
lawyer,” Judge Andrew J. Kleinfeld wrote.

Kleinfeld wrote that the privilege must apply to such
initial consultations and queries because “without it, people could not
safely bring their problems to lawyers unless the lawyers had already
been retained.”

So rather than disclaim what you say online, why not think hard about
what you do sayto begin with – and then stand by it.  Because in the end, even the
most thorough disclaimer won’t insulate attorneys from accountability
where it’s deserved.