I subscribe to law-related listservs, and I am sometimes surprised by the willingness of some people to share facts of ongoing cases in order to get advice. Usually, the poster is careful to guard against the revelation of names and telling case details, but some posts seem awfully close to crossing the line drawn by the duty of confidentiality.
Imagine a listserv that is designed to serve personal injury lawyers, where lawyers share ideas about suing large corporations. My understanding is that listservs like this exist in a variety of settings, including criminal defense, prosecution, and other areas of law. My question is whether lawyers should expect that emails to these sorts of listservs are viewed only by listserv subscribers. That is, should lawyers feel comfortable sharing or seeking advice on a listserv?
On the one hand, I realize that there can be a real benefit to lawyers in exchanging practical ideas that could enhance their practices. But is it realistic to expect that posts to a listserv, even ones that are limited to particular types of lawyers, will stay out of the hands of people who have adverse interests and are not listserv subscribers? Should we ever have an expectation of privacy when sending an email to a listserv?
In my mind, lawyers should not send emails to a listserv that they wouldn't want their opponents to see. I realize that such caution would undermine the helpfulness of some listservs. But by posting sensitive information to a listserv, lawyers generally risk more than they gain.