Imagine you’re a tenant who’s concerned your landlord is engaged in illegal practices, so you seek the legal advice of a well-known tenants’ rights lawyer. Later, that lawyer is forced to reveal her client list publicly. The fact that you’re on it might make future landlords less likely to rent to you, as they could perceive you to be potentially litigious.
Or imagine you’re having marital troubles and you seek advice from a divorce attorney. You end up patching things up with your spouse, but when the divorce attorney is forced to reveal all his clients, everyone knows you once contemplated divorce.
The courtroom reaction to the disclosure of Hannity’s name proves the point. Judge Kimba Wood told Cohen’s attorney, “I just don’t understand the argument that just because this undisclosed client consulted Mr. Cohen, that is somehow embarrassing or an invasion of privacy.” Really? As one journalist noted, the revelation of Hannity’s name drew “gasps and some chuckles.” Reporters raced for the exits. (I imagine it looked like this.) In other words, it was embarrassing for Hannity to be revealed as a client of an attorney who seems to specialize in securing hush payments for clients who have had illicit affairs. In Hannity’s case, there was the added embarrassment that he had been reporting on Cohen without disclosing the relationship.