NLJ.com reported that news of impending layoffs at Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman broke due to corporate and securities head Robert Robbins having an indiscreet cell phone conversation that was overheard on a train. My question is why wasn't he using his Cone of Silence? I mean if Secret Agent Maxwell Smart can afford one, surely Pillsbury Winthrop could.
We have discussed on several occasions in our office how people often behave as if their cell phone conversations are protected by some mythical Cone of Silence. I was once entertained at lunch by a young lady at an adjoining table discussing details of the previous night's date that I bet her mother wouldn't want her sharing with strangers. My assistant, Sharon, and her mother were once disturbed by a lawyer returning calls while eating, including discussing in a very loud voice the details of a pending family law case with the opposing counsel.
Confidentiality and discretion should be second nature to a lawyer. Jay Foonberg tells the story of wife being angry with him when they visited some social acquaintances and she was unaware that they had adopted a baby. Jay's firm had handled the adoption. Mobile phones have ubiquitous in our society. So this situation is understandable, if not forgivable. I do sympathize. I have a loud voice myself. But before you talk to a client or about a client (or a proposed layoff) on your mobile phone, look around and be aware of your surroundings. Then talk very quietly. If you have to tell a client "I can't discuss that right now. I'm on a mobile phone in a public place," that's fine, too. The client should appreciate your discretion--as long you call them back promptly.