In order to develop a meaningful online presence, lawyers routinely include blogs on their professional websites. Most attorney blogs feature news or information concerning the legal issues addressed by the attorney’s practice. While developing content for a blog, attorneys should be aware that blog content must abide by professional conduct standards. If these standards are violated in an attorney’s blog, disciplinary actions may result.
Red Flags to Consider: What are Some Possible Violations
- Articles that discuss prior and current cases may violate confidentiality rules.
- Articles that reach out into other jurisdictions may be considered an unauthorized practice of law.
- Promotional blogs may violate strict advertising regulations.
- Delegating the writing of blog content to non-legal staff may be construed as “aiding the unauthorized practice of law.”
Attorneys should also be careful about responding to specific questions in the comments section of a blog. In some states, comments in a blog may be seen as providing specific advice, which may establish an attorney-client relationship.
Tips for Building an Ethical Blog
- Write generalized informational (non-advisory) articles.
- Note the state in which you are licensed to practice and the status of your license.
- Avoid discussing prior or current cases for self-promotion as that may violate confidentiality rules, unless facts are changed and names redacted.
- Use jurisdictional disclaimers when applicable.
- Make all disclaimers very clear, legalese-free, and conspicuous to lay readers.
- Ensure that blog commenters’ state of residence is included; this will minimize the risk of engaging in an unauthorized practice of law by giving advice on laws of state where you lack license.
Nuts and Bolts of Disclaimers: What are Some Typical Points to Include?
Blog disclaimer(s) may address jurisdictional limits of a legal practice and/or formation concerning an attorney-client relationship. Here are several examples:
- The state the attorney is licensed practice
- An explanation that an attorney can't practice in other states without the proper license
- A statement that the blog is not intended as solicitation or advertisement
- A note that information in the blog may not apply to every reader
- Communications on the blog don’t form an attorney client relationship
- Neither the blog's nor the attorney's purpose is to represent readers
- The blog's information is not intended for legal advice