Blogging from Paralegal Hell

There’s another new blog in the paralegal neighborhood entitled “Paralegal Hell.”  You may have noted the blogger’s comment to my last post about a new blog, “Paralegals on Trial,” but I have removed the comment because it identified the blogger. In an email to me, Paralegal states that the blog helps her relieve stress. She notes, “I do have a sarcastic bite to my blog, but if you read the actual conversations I have with my clients, you will understand why.”

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The blog does provide an interesting read and will likely provide stress relief for paralegals who follow the blogger’s candid reports of some of the most frustrating aspects of legal work for all involved in the profession. Many of those frustrations come from clients, making client management a significant topic in my first two books and a frequent topic in workshops and seminars.

While I’m sure to read the blog on a regular basis, there is some danger to relieving stress by reporting office occurrences, even anonymously, on the internet, as reported in previous posts on this blog.  Consider this for example,

ABAJournal.com has a post dealing with an attorney in trouble because of posts on her blog which states in part,

A former Illinois assistant public defender’s blog musings about her difficult clients and clueless judges has landed her in trouble with disciplinary officials.

Kristine Ann Peshek has been accused of revealing client confidences, allegedly for describing her clients in a way that made it possible to identify them. Peshek referred to her clients by either their first names, a derivative of their first names, or by their jail identification numbers, according to the disciplinary complaint filed on Aug. 25. The Legal Profession Blog noted the accusations.

Peshek counters that she would never have posted information that she believed would lead to identification of a client, absent the client’s permission or unless the information is a matter of public record. She tells the ABA Journal she is in the process of hiring a lawyer.

This is, of course, a problem not only for attorneys, but for their paralegals. Less obvious it the fact that it is a problem that extends well beyond blogging to Facebook and other social networks, emails with friends and family and off-line conversations. It is one thing to talk about a difficult, exciting, or interesting “day,” and another to talk about a difficult, exciting or interesting case or client. The latter requires extreme care and in most instances the best advice is “Don’t.” Keep in mind that later the well-known “Monday morning quarterbacks” may be judging whether your musing have cross the line with regard to confidentiality. They will be doing so with the benefit of hind sight and often without the proper context.

It is true that confidentiality is not broken if the client gives permission or the information is part of a public record. But there will be questions:  Do you have a record of the client’s permission? Was the permission given independently with complete knowledge of the facts, circumstances and consequences? Did the client have time to consider all this before giving permission? Was the client influenced by his dependent relationship with you? Was ALL of the information you revealed part of the public records? And many more. The best way not to cross the line is not to come near it.

For more on problems with mixing your professional life and social media see Lynne Devenney’s post “Social Media 101: Mojitos and Mourning Don’t Mix on Facebook” on her blog, Practical Paralegalism.

One good aspect of the blog is that the blogger manages to maintain the sarcasm, while making it clear she still enjoys her career. Another is that the blogger takes an occasional serious turn such as her excellent post on payday lenders. While it will be better if clients do not read most of the posts on her blog -one may recognize themselves and get angry, all clients should read the post on payday lenders.

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