To be honest, I find them impossibly confusing. I generally write about this issue on Between Lawyers, but since you asked, I’ll take a stab at it here.
By way of background, I think I first started speaking about legal ethics rules for web pages back in 1996 or 1997, so I have some history on these topics. I think that the web page rules evolved in a fairly straight-forward way, with a few standard requirements, usually being the placement of some disclaimer language.
What concerns me is that there appears to be a trend of not treating blogs under the web page rules, as would be logical, amd instead treating them as some new kind of animal.
Personally, I see the debate from the academic viewpoint. My blog is, as I say repeatedly, an experiment in writing. It has nothing to do with my legal practice – ask the legal marketing people if they recommend writing about Metallica documentaries and NASCAR to advertise a legal practice. To the extent I use my blog to promote anything, I promote my speaking and consulting businesses.
In fact, lately I have done all my law-related posts to Between Lawyers, which is an educational and, hopefully, an entertainment vehicle, not a law practice marketing or advertising vehicle.
Some people do not understand why I have taken this approach. Allow me to illustrate. At the recent Missouri Solo and Small Firm Conference, I had a discussion with the main education specialist for my legal malpractice carrier about whether a Missouri lawyer may do legal work for non-Missouri clients under the current or future multi-jurisdictional practice rules. Most lawyers will know what the answer was.
If I used my blog to “advertise” my legal practice, I’d simply get inquiries from clients whose work I couldn’t take. The current ethics rules make it all-but-impossible as a practical matter to refer work to another attorney and try to take a referral fee – the reasons are far to complex to get into while sitting in a drum store – so there’s no reason to try that approach.
As a result, I’ve decided not to mention my law practice on my blog. I market the law practice in non-Internet ways in Missouri, although I provide standard information on my website, as I have done for almost ten years.
The recent discussion and interpretation have given me concern that I still might not be doing enough and that the mere fact that I am a lawyer who writes a blog will make me subject to a regime of rules designed for lawyers who run yellow page ads, billboards and the like.
As I said, I find it all confusing and hope that, as was the case with web pages, there is a move toward clear and easy to follow rules.
As an interesting aside on this whole legal advertising rule, I’ll note that when I was in large firms, my friends in small firms complained all the time that there was one set of ethical rules (as they were enforced) for big firms and one set for small firms. I used to laugh at them and tell them to chill out. Now, I find that I’m talking like they were.
Here’s an example. I received a blow-in card with a publication that was an ad for the Orrick law firm.
The ad had a very large green “$O” and then made a reference to how they “win cases” in the first sentence.
As you probably know, the recent talk about blogs has focused on creating unreasonable expectations of results, mentioning past successes, and unsubstantiated factual comparisons.
I admire Orrick for being willing to prepare and use an ad that seems to go right in the teeth of the type of reasoning that has been used in connection with blogs. I simply don’t have the guts to do anything like that. I suppose that some cynical small firm lawyers will say this is another example of one rule for big firms and one rule for small firms, but I simply think of it as being “aggressive.”
To be crystal clear, I personally have no problem with the Orrick ad – I actually like it. I’m just confused by the interpretation of the advertising rules as they apply to lawyer blogs.
And that’s the end of another edition of By Request Tuesday. Thanks for your questions.
[Originally posted on DennisKennedy.Blog (http://www.denniskennedy.com/blog/)]