Sunday, September 10, 2006
Online Attorney Location Services and Confidentiality
I stumbled across a site I hadn't seen for a few years the other day, LegalMatch, and for no good reason it occurred to me that there were some serious potential confidentiality issues for people who use the site to find lawyers. The site permits potential clients to submit a description of their case online, which (if all goes according to the site's plan) is subsequently reviewed by subscribing lawyers who decide if they wish to pitch their services (and fees) to the potential client. The potential client can then choose from those lawyers and, if all goes well, find one with the right set of qualifications and an affordable fee.
The site makes very clear that no attorney-client relationship exists when a potential client posts a description of a case. It seems to me that this gives a potential source of the person's unvarnished story to any opposing counsel who learns (or guesses) that they have used the service. Is there any reason that the person's description, as posed to LegalMatch, can't be subpoenaed?
I've actually seen worse - there was a site a few years back which permitted users to email, en masse, subscribing law firms, who would in theory reply to the email with offers to take the case. The company focused on personal injury claims. The site was apparently having some difficulty getting plaintiff's firms to sign up, and had padded its directory by adding some prominent defense firms to their listings even though they had not subscribed. Which, of course, could have resulted in the unsolicited submission of the user's description of their claim to a defense firm that ultimately ended up defending their lawsuit.