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Vol. 46, No. 2

Need to learn more about confidentiality? The ABA Division for Bar Services can help

In this era of transparency when, as they say, “Information wants to be free”—and most of us have devices that allow immediate sharing—how important is confidentiality for a board member?

The fact is, it’s still very important.

While all members may have a right to certain information about the bar and its board meetings, other information could cause serious harm if it left the boardroom. For example, what if a board could no longer deliberate freely because the board members knew that what they said would be heard or read by others who were not in the room? What if a board member who was on one side of a contentious issue damaged the reputation of a board member with an opposing view by disclosing to others how this board member voted? And what could happen if a board member chats with a friend about bar-related litigation that was discussed in executive session?

But just to add another wrinkle, a mandatory bar may have “sunshine laws” it must follow, meaning that everything except what occurs in executive session is available by public request.

If your bar’s board could use some help understanding confidentiality and when and how it applies to their work, the ABA Division for Bar Services has a resource that can help: a brief video in which bar leaders and nonprofit governance experts explain this duty and put it in context.

In recognition of the difficulties caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the division is now allowing fully complimentary access to this video and others on governance-related topics, all part of the Board Catalyst “Shorts” series. Enjoy them in good health—and use them to help ensure your bar’s good health, too.