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Florida Bar Ethics Opinion 20-1

“A lawyer may not disclose information relating to a client’s representation in response to a negative online review, but may respond with a general statement that the lawyer is not permitted to respond as the lawyer would wish, but that the online review is neither fair nor accurate.”

Rule 4-1.6 – Confidentiality of Information

  • A lawyer MUST NOT disclose confidential information, except as authorized or required by the Rules Regulating The Florida Bar or by law, unless the client gives informed consent.

The preamble to Chapter 4 of the Rules Regulating The Florida Bar defines informed consent as “the agreement by a person to a proposed course of conduct after the lawyer has communicated adequate information and explanation about the material risks of and reasonably available alternatives to the proposed course of conduct.”

  • The confidentiality rule covers all information regarding the representation, WHATEVER THE SOURCE.

Absent informed consent, a lawyer cannot reveal confidential information about the representation, even if it was in the public record.

  • Duty applies to current AND former clients.

Sample Responses:

“A lawyer’s duty to keep client confidences has few exceptions and in an abundance of caution I do not feel at liberty to respond in a point by point fashion in this forum. Suffice it to say that I do not believe that the post presents a fair and accurate picture of the events.”

“As an attorney, I am constrained by the Rules Regulating The Florida Bar from responding in detail, but I will simply state that it is my belief that the [comments/post] present neither a fair nor accurate picture of what occurred and I believe that the [comments/post] [is/are] false.”

If you have questions about the aforementioned rule and/or opinion, you may contact the Ethics Hotline at 800.235.8619. The Ethics Hotline is open Monday – Friday from 9 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.