John Anastasi and Craig Smith quoted in Mass Lawyers Weekly “ABA ethics panel flags dos and don’ts for listserv users”

  • May 23, 2024

The American Bar Association Standing Committee on Ethics & Professional Responsibility recently released Formal Opinion 511 which addresses the issue of if and when a lawyer’s use of listservs to network and solicit input on legal matters violates the Professional Rules of Conduct protecting client confidentiality.

Partners John N. Anastasi and Craig R. Smith were asked by a Mass Lawyers Weekly reporter to share their opinions as to whether listservs are helpful, a waste of time, or something in between.

According to John Anastasi, who uses a similar program in a business capacity as part of a professional networking group, listservs can be helpful when they are targeted to a particular audience.

“It’s a very useful resource for referrals,” Anastasi says
In order to avoid ethical issues regarding client confidentiality, Anastasi says when he posts a question he makes a point of simply asking if there’s someone with expertise in a certain general subject area who would be willing to speak with him on the phone for five minutes. That way he avoids revealing any information about a client or matter on the networking site.

“I’m not looking to go back and forth on a public forum in any kind of detail,” Anastasi says. “It’s just better to have a conversation.”

Craig Smith prefers to employ other sources “like reputable legal blogs” for legal issues and analysis.

According to Smith, the “true value” of a listserv is measured by the extent to which it provides a forum to collect relevant information in a specific field of practice.

“For example, a good listserv moderator would collect and distribute updates for practitioners who are interested in the same topics or issues. But I would not use a listserv to crowdsource legal issues or hypothetical questions. I would only trust my own research.”

Hear more on the topic from our partners in the full article at (subscription required).

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