Social media and the internet are creating new questions and a patchwork of answers about lawyer ethics. In an interesting recent opinion, the Virginia Supreme Court has rejected the Virginia State Bar's attempt to discipline one of its members, a criminal defense lawyer, for blogging about a client's case without the client's consent. The Bar had argued that the posts violated Virginia's version of Model Rule 1.6:
A lawyer shall not reveal information protected by the attorney-client privilege under applicable law or other information gained in the professional relationship that the client has requested be held inviolate or the disclosure of which would be embarrassing or would be likely to be detrimental to the client unless the client consents after consultation, except for disclosures that are impliedly authorized in order to carry out the representation, and except as stated in paragraphs (b) and (c).
The Court noted that all of the posts involved cases that had been concluded and that all of the information was public information that would have been protected speech had the news media or others disseminated it. However, the Court rejected the lawyer's argument that his blog posts were protected political speech, holding instead that they constituted potentially misleading commercial speech that the Virginia State Bar has authority to regulate.