When a lawyer’s name is mentioned in a disciplinary matter, it is often made newsworthy regardless of the seriousness of the breach. The internet algorithms become the final executioners and the lawyer’s reputation is shot to pieces.

In Australia, the professional bodies and disciplinary boards do a decent job of building a barrier against the search engines but it is only a matter of time until their walls will be breached. Why publish names at all if they don’t come up easily in a regular Google search? 

Each State law society and statutory authority that is involved in publishing names has its own approach and format. It is a balancing act between keeping the public informed and destroying someone’s reputation.

However the balancing act becomes ineffective when news organisations exploit the registers to bolster slow news days. 

These issues are of course also relevant to lawyers in jurisdictions outside of Australia. The publishing of a lawyer’s name had to be considered by an Appeals Court in British Colombia, Canada.

The lawyer, the law society, the initial judge and the Appeals court were all aware of the potential damage to reputation. The lawyer put up a good fight. In reading a summary of the matter, it is natural to have sympathy for the practitioner but that sympathy might disappear as you read towards the end of the article.