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Wednesday, April 1, 2015

LinkedIn Endorsements and Attorney Ethics

I have written about the subject of ethical issues for attorneys in regard to LinkedIn endorsements a couple of times on this blog, including a post regarding the American Bar Association cautioning attorneys to be careful about misleading endorsements. Just last month, the New York County Lawyers Association Professional Committee issued a formal opinion on the ethical implications of attorney profiles on LinkedIn.  While the opinion is not binding on attorneys in other jurisdictions, it is instructive.  You can read the full opinion here.

In short, the NY Ethics Committee concluded that attorneys can maintain profiles on LinkedIn, including information about their education, areas of practice, skills, and recommendations written by other users. If an attorney's profile contains a description of areas of practice or skills or endorsements, then the profile may be considered attorney advertising and requires the disclaimers required by Rule 7.1.  Endorsements or skills do not, however, constitute a claim that the attorney is a "specialist" under Rule 7.4, so are not barred so long as the information is truthful and accurate.

In its opinion, the Ethics Committee cautioned attorneys to periodically review endorsements and recommendations made by other users to make sure they are truthful and not misleading.  While the Committee did not provide any specific guidance on what "periodic" means, it did note that it wouldn't obligate an attorney to review, monitor, and revise their LinkedIn sites on a daily or even weekly basis - just at "reasonable intervals."

An attorney should be careful in using the skills & expertise function on LinkedIn, and in allowing endorsements, so as not to violate any applicable ethics rules that could be seen as misleading. So, for example, if you are a real estate attorney who never goes to court, leaving an endorsement for "civil litigation" on your LinkedIn profile could be considered a violation of the ethics rules against false or misleading claims about the attorney's services, even if you did not put that information on your profile yourself.  

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