One of the strengths of mediation is its cloak of confidentiality. Participants can feel free to say what they want and show documents prepared for mediation without the fear of it biting them later in the litigation. But not everything said and shown in mediation is protected. As with everything else, know the limits of mediation confidentiality.
Ongoing technological developments present attorneys with significant challenges in the field of information privacy and security. One of these developments comes in the seemingly innocuous package of “free wifi.” But that Internet connection won’t seem so free if it comes with a State Bar probe for ethics violations.
Consider this scenario: Your corporate client asks you for advice on the legality of a new marketing strategy. You issue an opinion that certain aspects of the plan are marginally legal, but that the audit-risk is low unless your client’s competitors chose to sue. Your opinion letter is reviewed and filed in the company’s general files, and your client decides to accept the risk and goes forward with the strategy. Murphy’s law comes into play and your client is sued by its competitor, which asks for all communications with you about the new marketing strategy, including your opinion letter. Might the corporation be forced to turn over its communications with you? Yes. Could such a result have been avoided? Yes.
Once upon a time, parties could agree on their own to keep court records away from public view. But a concern grew that information that should arguably have been publicly available was sealed from view and, in some cases, deleted from court files. Enter Cal Rules of Ct 2.550 and 2.551, which apply to both civil and criminal cases and set the presumption that court records are open to the public. So, how do you go about getting records sealed now?
You receive a written demand for documents in a case pending in a California state court. One of the documents sought is your client’s fee agreement. As a good lawyer, your first instinct is to protect the agreement’s confidentiality. You ask yourself: Can I object? and if I can, on what grounds? The answer is found in Bus & P C §6149.