JK Rowling’s Secret Revealed by her Attorney
A prominent British law firm recently admitted that it was responsible for leaking JK Rowling’s pen name in her new mystery novel. The venerable author of the Harry Potter series intended to wear an invisibility cloak of her own, releasing her latest work – the Cuckoo’s Calling – under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith. Rowling reportedly hoped to “publish without hype or expectation” that would accompany her true identity. But the anonymity did not last long thanks to her attorney’s blunder at a cocktail party.
An entertainment lawyer retained by Rowling boasted to an acquaintance in a “private conversation” that Rowling authored the novel. That opened the floodgates. It didn’t take long for the friend to tweet the revelation to a reporter from the Sunday Times of London. Once the Times got the tip, it contacted an Oxford professor who analyzed the text and concluded it was likely penned by Rowling. Following the disclosure, Rowling confirmed Galbraith’s true identity, and the novel became a critically acclaimed best-seller almost overnight.
Despite the public accolade and an apology from her attorney, Rowling remains distressed. The author released a statement saying that “To say that I am disappointed is an understatement. I had assumed that I could expect total confidentially from […] a reputable firm, and I feel very angry that my trust turned out to be misplaced.”
Attorneys have an ethical duty to protect client information absent consent or special circumstances. When attorneys breach this duty, they risk losing the confidence of their clients, and may expose themselves to malpractice suits or disciplinary action. Lawyers must resist the temptation to discuss confidential matters. Once confidential information is released, there can be no clawing it back.