Law Gossip: Hogwarts Confidential
July 23, 2013
It’s not every day that there is a lot of juicy, law-related gossip out there, but this is one of those days! For those of you in the know (I’m looking at you, there, on the internet while you’re “studying for the LSAT”!), J.K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter books and well-known kajillionaire, has written a new book… under the name Robert Galbraith. Now, this in and of itself is news, but the latest is that the secret was spilled by none other than a lawyer at her law firm, to his wife’s best friend, who went on to tweet the Big Secret to a national news publication.
Now, we have all heard the words ‘attorney-client privilege’ bandied about on various Law and Order episodes, and Rowling herself is clearly furious with the law firm (in the U.K. they have a similar set of protections, though not entirely identical). For thoseof us aching for a break from LSAT studying by any means necessary, this is a great opportunity to do take a break while staying marginally on task. There are several LSAT- and law-related ways to examine this situation, as well as some personal soul-searching should you be so inclined (I will do my best to stay entirely away from Harry Potter puns along the way):
APPROACH 1: LSAT-style
LSAT Argument: J.K. Rowling informed her legal representation that she was publishing a book under a pseudonym, and legal representation is bound by law to keep such assertions confidential. Therefore, J.K. Rowling’s identity will be protected by her law firm.
The conclusion here, of course, is that her identity will be protected, based on the evidence that she informed her legal representation and the law states that they will maintain confidentiality. The assumption here is that her prestigious, expensive law firm would actually follow the letter of the law. Outside the scope of this argument would be the assumption that they might violate the terms to a personal friend who would then really up the intelligence quotient to eleven by tweeting it to a news source under her own name.
To strengthen this argument, LSAT-style, we would need to find out some facts that would support the assumption that the firm would obey the law. First of all, if we found out that never before had client confidentiality been breached by the firm, it is MORE LIKELY that the conclusion would hold up (remember in strengthen questions we are more concerned with making the conclusion more likely than needing to definitively prove it). We could also find out that there were very serious repercussions (legal, financial) that make it less likely that the firm would go against the letter of the law, orthat the secret was only known by the most senior and trusted members of the firm. None of these things guarantee the result, but they do strengthen the argument by bolstering the assumption.
To weaken this argument, LSAT-style, we find facts that work against the assumption, that make it less likely to be true. For instance, if the confidentiality laws in the UK were seldom enforced or the firm had a history of publicity leaks, it makes it less likely that the firm would follow the letter of the law.
Approach 2: Law-style
Why does attorney-client privilege exist, and what does it mean in today’s information-happy world? The pressure of information as currency, especially in the law world, is massive. How far should that privilege extend? Write up an opinion, or bandy about your thoughts with all of your coolest law-minded friends (if you don’t have any of those special people, feel free to let us step in and leave a comment and we’d be happy to take it on!). Scope in law is always important, as is balancing a client’s needs and rights with the efficacy of legal representation– think about the amount of people in a large firm environment that handle different confidential documents and communication. How does the law specifically maintain the key level of protection?
Approach 3: Personal-style
Could you keep a secret that juicy if you were told it in a professional milieu? What if you were traded an automatic 180 on the LSAT for the information? What’s your limit?
(My answer is probably not. I have a big mouth, and you should never confide in me what you’re getting people for Christmas.)
On that strangely personal note, I will leave you all to get back to those LSAT-books, eccentric law friends, and whatever other fun we may have distracted you from. Mischief managed (just one!).