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Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Lawyers, Law Firms, and LinkedIn

LinkedIn is often described as the social media site of choice for professionals, especially lawyers, who may be concerned that Facebook and Twitter are too casual for serious marketing efforts.  LinkedIn is a great forum for lawyers to market themselves and their practices and connect with other lawyers and professionals without their message getting lost somewhere between pictures of cats and kids on their first day of school. 
 
Attorneys, however, must be constantly aware of their ethical obligations in using social media sites, even professional sites such as LinkedIn.  I wrote about this issue previously on the blog after the American Bar Association published an article raising concerns about the ethical implications of the "specialty" and "endorsement" features on LinkedIn.  Although there hadn't been an opinion or case dealing with this issue at the time of the ABA's article, New York has since weighed in on this issue in a recent Bar Association ethics opinion.
 
A New York law firm had requested an opinion from the New York State Bar Association's Committee on Professional Ethics as to whether it was ethical for the firm to use the "specialties" section of the online profile to describe the type of legal services the firm provides.  In a formal ethics opinion, the Committee determined that law firms could not list "specialties" on a LinkedIn profile of the law firm.  Individual attorneys, however, could list "specialties" in their profile but only if the lawyer had been certified in that area of the law by an appropriate organization or governmental entity.  Listing a specialty without being appropriately certified would be a violation of NY Ethics Rule 7.4(a), which prohibits a lawyer from stating that he or she is a specialist or specializes in a particular area of the law unless they are properly certified.  That same rule applies to law firms.
 
The problem with this opinion is that LinkedIn's "one size fits all" online profile does not take into consideration the special ethical obligations of lawyers or law firms.  Lawyers and law firms are cautioned to check their own state ethical rules to determine whether a similar rule is in place in their jurisdiction and modify their profiles accordingly.

5 comments:

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  2. I do not even know how I ended up here, but I thought this post was great.
    I don't know who you are but certainly you are going to a famous blogger if you are not already ;) Cheers!

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