One of the services that we offer here at the School of Government is what I like to call the “hotline.” When you have a question about the law, you can call us or email us and we’ll try to answer it. Although different faculty members treat those calls slightly differently, most of us treat them as confidential. I certainly do. But I also blog about questions that I receive, and some people have asked me about the tension between confidentiality and using questions as the basis of blog posts. In case you were staying up at night wondering how I balance those concerns, here’s the answer.
If I receive a single call, about a single “live” case, I won’t blog about the issue, period. I particularly want lawyers to feel comfortable calling and asking questions without worrying that they’ll tell me their thoughts and then I’ll disclose their thoughts on the blog, or that they’ll express a concern that they don’t want opposing counsel to know about, but then I’ll flag the issue on the blog.
However, if I receive multiple calls about an issue that has cropped up in multiple cases, it becomes fair game for the blog. I still won’t disclose the thoughts that any particular lawyer (or judge, or officer, or whoever) has shared in confidence about a particular case, but I will describe the issue in generic terms and offer my thoughts about it. Part of my job as a School of Government faculty member is to write on recurrent, important legal issues, and the blog is one way for me to do that. (But not the only way — please excuse this shameless plug for some of my other work, which is available here and here.)
I hope this helps to clarify how I balance the different aspects of my work — and I hope it gives you the confidence to continue to rely on our traditional hotline function even as we move into the brave new world of the blog.
One final point. My behind-the-scenes stats counter tells me that readership of this blog is exploding — we’re pushing a thousand hits a week — but the number of comments isn’t keeping pace. Help me out here, people! Make the blog better by sharing your thoughts and experiences. If you’d feel more comfortable leaving comments anonymously, that’s fine. You get to choose the name under which you leave comments — feel free to pick whatever nom de plume you prefer. Confidentiality, anonymity, we’ve got it all.