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Jax Daily Record Monday, Mar. 7, 201112:00 PM EST

Beware elevator chatter: 'That can cause huge problems'

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by Joe Wilhelm Jr.

Staff Writer

Bosses and the boss of the City of Jacksonville’s legal department broke bread with the Northeast Florida Paralegal Association at The River Club on Thursday.

More than 100 people attended the event that featured guest speaker Cindy Laquidara, general counsel for the City of Jacksonville.

Laquidara spoke about professionalism, government law and the changes that social media and the Internet have caused in the practice of law.

“We had a great opportunity to bring Cindy here,” said Cathleen Reid, first vice president of the association.

“She can talk to lawyers as well as paralegals, which was appreciated by the crowd we had today,” she said.

Laquidara began her presentation by warning the crowd about talking to people about pending cases.

“A number of you that I recognize in here work on high-profile cases. Big cases that the media wants to know more about,” said Laquidara.

“They want to ask you about (the case), your friends want to ask you, the people in the elevator want to ask you, and that’s when it is difficult because everyone around you is talking about it and you can’t,” she said.

“Your knowledge can become a confidential source, when it comes from you as a paralegal working on the case or an attorney working on the case,” she said.

Laquidara explained how innocent conversations can lead to big problems in the courtroom.

“It’s something that your client will be upset about. It’s something that opposing counsel can argue you have waived attorney-client privilege on and then question you in the deposition on it,” said Laquidara. “That can cause huge problems.”

She also talked about the problems that have developed since social media has become so widely used.

“E-mails are just another form of communication,” said Laquidara. “If I ask you for all of your communications, it doesn’t matter if it’s on a sticky note or an e-mail, you should have it.

“I think if you look at social media from that standpoint, look at Facebook. Do you have an expectation of privacy if you’re posting on Facebook? Hard to argue that you do. So it’s hard to argue for someone else,” she said.

Laquidara admitted she is surprised about the information offered to the public.

“I’m still amazed what people post when I’m looking through litigation and see the CNN alerts,” said Laquidara.

She was also surprised with people who leave e-mails when they leave a job or position.

“They leave their e-mails and personal e-mails,” said Laquidara. “That’s no fun for anybody. I don’t want to know about it, but I have to when the media comes looking.”

The purpose and mission of the association includes encouraging a high order of ethical and professional attainment; furthering education among members of the profession; cooperating with local, state, and national bar associations; and establishing fellowship among its members and members of the legal community.

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