Amy Dickinson is a syndicated advice columnist and the late Ann Landers’ successor at the Chicago Tribune. Although she’s not a legal professional, Dickinson knew exactly what to say when a reader wrote her about an uncomfortable dining experience at a Long Island restaurant:
Dear Amy: Last night, I took my mother out for what I thought would be a pleasant, relaxing dinner. Was I wrong.
In the booth in back of us, a lawyer and his client loudly discussed a child custody/visitation case for an hour and a half. Not only did we hear every detail, but we also heard every cellphone call he made.
Wasn’t this a case of violating client confidentiality? Shouldn’t the lawyer have known better? And finally, other than requesting a change of seating, what could I have done differently? — Fed up on Long Island
Dear Fed Up: This is a case of violating client confidentiality. This lawyer should know better, and so should the client.
You could have turned and said to this booth neighbor, “It sounds like you are having an important business discussion, and I want you to know that we can hear everything you’re discussing over here.”
You shouldn’t have to move.
Amy’s right on the money. A lawyer, and every member of a lawyer’s staff, should know better than to discuss a case in person, or via cell phone, in a location where other people, not bound by the attorney-client privilege, can hear the conversation.
You’ve got wonder what Long Island lawyer woke up this morning and saw his snafu plastered across the nation’s newspapers.