Member Sign In FAQContactSite MapHome
Lawyers' Listserv Postings Should Omit Identifying Details About Clients' Cases
Lawyers who participate in Internet listserv discussions should avoid including any confidential information that could be tied to a particular case or controversy, the Los Angeles County bar's ethics committee advised Aug. 19 (Los Angeles County Bar Ass'n Professional Responsibility and Ethics Comm., Formal Op. 514, 8/19/05).

Listserv postings that give identifying details about cases can result in unexpected problems such as possible waiver of work product protection or inadvertent communications with judges involved in a client's case, the opinion explained.

As a springboard for its discussion, the committee considered communications on a hypothetical listserv created by a section of a local bar association for members of the section to communicate with each other.

In the hypothetical, one member posted an inquiry on the listserv seeking an accountant to serve as an expert witness. Another member responded by recommending a specific certified public accountant; a third member read the recommendation and posted a sharp criticism of that CPA.

A judge who actively participates on the listserv read the messages, realized that this particular CPA was scheduled to testify before him soon, and then posted his own message suggesting that messages to the listserv be censored to avoid such ex parte contacts.

In considering this hypothetical, the committee analogized a listserv discussion to a public conversation conducted by e-mail. "Even communicating through a closed Listserv is like e-mailing a letter to the editor of a newspaper, or participating in a call-in radio show or a conference call,
via e-mail," the opinion said.

Attorneys must be vigilant about safeguarding client confidences, the committee emphasized, noting that new forms of communication can seduce lawyers into forgetting this ever-present duty.

The hypothetical in this opinion illustrates that even seemingly innocent exchanges on a listserv can lead to unexpected problems, the committee said. Although the request for an expert and the responses did not seem to involve client confidences, "given the inherently public nature of a Listserv, a discussion about an expert referral on a Listserv, whether requesting or responding with information, could impair a lawyer's ability to continue representing a client, by improvidently disclosing information or engaging in ex parte communications with members of the bench," the committee found.

For example, the panel noted, an attorney who offers an opinion about an expert might reveal mental impressions and thereby bring about a waiver of work product protection.

Copyright 2005 The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc.
The United States Law Week
September 13, 2005
74 U.S.L.W. 2131
How To Use A List-Server
To use a list to which you subscribe, simply send an email to the list-server email address from your subscription email address. Your correspondence will then be sent to all subscribers of that list. Frequently asked questions regarding the use of list-servers can be found on our FAQs tab.

The following list-server is moderated by WDTL's Executive Director for correspondence with members: Posts to this list by members will be rejected.

List-servers are not "secure" or "confidential". Any information you send out to list-server participants is public, and may well be disseminated to plaintiff's attorneys. You should assume when you send out a message that your opposing counsel will read it. Accordingly, we recommend that you keep your broadcast messages general and nonspecific.


  1. Never put anything in a list-server message that would be harmful to your case if read by your opposing counsel or by the plaintiff's bar in general.
  2. When responding to a message, click Reply ONLY. This will send your response to sender of the email. DO NOT click Reply to All.
  3. Turn off Request a Delivery Receipt.
  4. These list-servers are for the use of WDTL members handling defense cases only. If you are representing the plaintiff in a case, you are not permitted to use these list-servers for information.
  5. WDTL is not liable in any way for the content of any messages or any replies, including any errors, omissions or transmission problems.
  6. No Attachments - Submissions containing attachments, including embedded signatures, are not permitted. Such submissions are automatically deleted without notification to sender. This rule is to protect all list-server subscribers from viruses that may be purposefully or inadvertently sent to the list-servers.
  7. No Advertisements - Subscribers may not post advertisements or solicitations of any kind on the list-servers. Subscribers who post such ads will be removed from the listserves. As the owner of the list-servers, WDTL may make subscribers aware of new resources.