Monday, December 3, 2007

Lawyers in Social Media and Internet Advertising

Two new decisions were issued on internet advertising by lawyers: Nebraska Ethics Advisory Opinion for Lawyers No. 07-05 and Oregon State Bar Formal Opinion No. 2007-180.

These two opinions affect what lawyers can do in social media and social networking sites like Facebook, LinkedIn or LawLink.

The Nebraska opinion was based on whether a Nebraska lawyer can advertise in an in internet-based lawyer directory.
"A Nebraska lawyer may advertise in an internet-based lawyer directory as long as: (1) the Directory does nothing more than list lawyers and appropriate information for the benefit of those who access the Directory; (2) no recommendation is made as to a particular lawyer; (3) any fee paid by the Lawyer for participation in the Directory is reasonable and is fixed for a certain period of time; (4) the Directory contains a disclaimer that it is a directory of lawyers, not a lawyer referral service or prepaid legal plan; and (5) no other Rules concerning lawyer advertising in general are violated." (My emphasis)
In LinkedIn, people you know can make recommendations. It looks like a Nebraska lawyer needs to make sure that nobody makes a recommendations. Many states have similar restrictions on recommendations.

In Oregon, the opinion was focused on whether the lawyer can The interesting point to note from the opinion is the statement:
"Lawyer is responsible for content that Lawyer did not create to the extent that Lawyer knows about that content."
Combining these two trains of thought, lawyers need to monitor what is being said about them in social networking/social media sites. Effectively, you need to make sure that there are no endorsements or recommendations for your legal services.

As I have pointed out before, lawyers should be checking the internet for what is being said about them. It is very easy to set up a perpetual search through Google, Yahoo and many other search providers. Set up a search for your name and see what is being said.

If you set up an account on a social network site, you need to go back and make sure that your profile remains true and does violate the ethics rule for your jurisdiction. If you do not maintain the profile, delete it.

Thanks to Michael S. Frisch of the Legal Profession Blog for pointing out these ethics opinions.

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