Legal Ethics

Lawyer fined for telling friend that client 'Harry Potter' author wrote new novel under pseudonym

A British lawyer has been rebuked and fined £1,000 by the Solicitors Regulation Authority for violating client confidentiality by revealing to his wife’s best friend that the author of the best-selling “Harry Potter” children’s book series had written a new novel under a pseudonym.

The revelation sent sales of the new novel, The Cuckoo’s Calling, skyrocketing. But author J.K. Rowling was furious and sued both solicitor Chris Gossage and Judith Callegari, the friend who passed on the news told to her by Gossage in a private conversation, recounts the Guardian. The action was settled with an apology, payment of Rowling’s costs and a charitable donation by Gossage’s law firm.

“To say I am disappointed is an understatement,” Rowling said a few days after news that she had written the new novel as Robert Galbraith. “A tiny number of people knew my pseudonym and it has not been pleasant to wonder for days how a woman whom I had never heard of,” until news of her work under the Galbraith name was made public, “could have found out something that many of my oldest friends did not know.”

The Russells firm at which Gossage is a partner publicly apologized at the time of the leak. “Whilst accepting his own culpability, the disclosure was made in confidence to someone he trusted implicitly,” it said in a written statement. “On becoming aware of the circumstances, we immediately notified J.K. Rowling’s agent.”

Also see: What were the best legal novels of 2013? (podcast)

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