Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Hey lawyers, I'm not your client

We can't talk casually with lawyers, at parties or infosec conferences. For one thing, it's an ethical problem for them, as they put a couple minute's thought into a question that can have lifelong consequences for a you. For another thing, it puts them legal jeopardy if you (falsely) think there is an attorney-client relationship. This makes lawyers boring people at parties, because all they can discuss is nonsense like sports scores.

In an attempt to remedy this situation, so I can talk casually about the law, I'm writing the following open-letter:

Dear Lawyers:
Unless there is a written agreement signed by you and me, I'm not your client. I understand that I should not interpret any comment as actual legal advice. I know that we are talking about hypothetical situations, and that I should not try to apply that information to my own situation. I know that we are often making jokes, and taking such things seriously as "legal advice" would be against my interests. I'm the one at fault, deliberately instigating you into discussing hypotheticals and making such jokes, for the lulz.
Robert Graham
Of course, I don't know if this letter will actually help lawyers chillax and talk more openly about the law. For that, I guess I'd need legal advice.


Luis said...

May be a similar open letter is needed for psychologists and/or psychiatrists???

Robert Graham said...

Maybe, Luis, but I avoid psychologists/psychiatrists at parties in order to avoid being involuntarily committed.


Unknown said...

Make all discussions about hypothetical questions. And don't say "hypothetical questions" in a sarcastic way.

Yury Schkatula said...

Article's last statement is a gem :)

FMS said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
FMS said...

From a lawyer's point of view, a couple of things- 1) just because you're not a client doesn't mean we don't have responsibilities to you. "Prospective clients" have important rights, even if no money changes hands and even if you're just chewing the rag. 2) the ethics rules adopted in most places require that lawyers take pains not to misstate the law or facts. If a lawyer isn't an expert in an area, it's generally a bad idea to speculate about it over coffee. 3) We are also generally required not to create an unreasonable expectation of what we could achieve in a given case, which is usually very difficult to assess over cocktails, and 4) We like to get paid for the difficulties associated with 1, 2, and 3.