Category Archives: Blogging

CLE Course: Ten Social Media Myths for Attorneys

Social media has changed society and along with it the practice of law.  Those attorneys who previously adopted the “Ostrich” approach – burying their heads in the sand and hoping it would all go away – must pull their head out and learn to adapt to our new Web 2.0 world.

It is now apparent that social media is not a fad – it is a paradigm shift.  Like email, Twitter and Facebook are here to stay … and that’s just the beginning.  There are currently over 400 social media websites and the list continues to grow every month.

Web 2.0 World

Social media is not just for teenagers and college kids anymore, companies and professionals now utilize social media for many business purposes.  Attorneys must be cognizant of social media and the legal issues that it presents in order to avoid legal liability and ethical violations in their own practice, and to fully counsel the clients they represent.

If you need help understanding the complex intersection of social media and the law, we have just added an excellent CLE course entitled Ten Social Media Myths for Attorneys.  In this extremely current and informative CLE course, Deborah Gonzalez of Law2sm provides an extremely comprehensive overview of the legal issues created by social media.  This course delves beyond merely introductory social media concepts and goes in-depth into complex legal social media issues so that attorneys are better able to counsel their clients.  The main areas addressed by Ms. Gonzalez include what is social media, ten principal social media myths for attorneys and resources for attorneys.

Further topics discussed include:

  • The many forms of social media
  • The new digital world
  • Why attorneys & professionals use social media
  • The principles of social media
  • Ethical rules that apply to social media use by attorneys
  • Disclaimers
  • Trademark protection
  • The FTC & false credentials
  • Astroturfing
  • Twitter-jacking
  • Cyber-stalking
  • Privacy
  • Employment law issues
  • The criminal system & the right to a fair trial
  • Digital legacy
  • Digital assets
  • State & federal laws impacting social media

Deborah Gonzalez is an attorney whose legal practice focuses on art, music, entertainment, digital, social media and online law.  She is licensed to practice in both New York and Georgia, and her clients include museums, galleries, artists & art professionals, animators, filmmakers, musicians & music professionals, authors, and various other creative professionals.  Ms. Gonzalez is the legal advisor to the Georgia Music Industry Association and currently serves on the board of Women in Film & Television Atlanta.  She is also a member of the Georgia Entertainment Association, Georgia Production Partnership, Women in Animation, and the Entertainment Law sections of the Georgia and New York Sate Bar Associations.  She speaks at various industry conferences around the world – such as SEIGE CON and SIAF – on legal issues and concerns for artists of all genres.

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Law Blogs … Here to Stay

It was only last year when I overheard this comment between a couple of seasoned practitioners at a CLE event: “Well, I guess I have to go out and get an email account … because that email thing isn’t going away!”  Yes, I did almost spit out my morning coffee when I heard this – although I was luckily able to refrain and simply offer a small chuckle under my breath.

There was a bit of facetiousness to the comment … but there was also bit of seriousness.  These attorneys have probably seen quite a few advancements in their years of practice, from the fax machine to Personal Computers.  Somewhere deep inside, I think that last thing this attorney wanted to do was adapt to a new technology in the last few years of his career.

One thing that is apparent in 2012 is that law blogs are here to stay – and they have come a long way since the early days of Web 2.0.[1]  We have come so far in fact, that the ATL blog (Above the Law) even found it’s way to the top of the Business Insider’s 15 Most Influential Law Blogs.  All the way to #2 in fact.

Like many technological advancements in the legal community, blogs have taken a little bit of time to catch on.  But at this point in time, blogs, tweets and ‘friending’ have become firmly entrenched in our online society. These are no longer fads … Facebook and blogging are now part of the legal landscape as well – just like courts, depositions and angry judges.

To check to see if any of your favorite blogs made the Business Insiders Top 15 Most Influential Law Blogs, please click here.   And to learn more about law blogs, take a look at what Kevin O’Keefe is doing over at LexBlog.


[1] For an incredibly great (and entertaining read) see “What Is Web 2.0” by Tim O’Reily

http://oreilly.com/web2/archive/what-is-web-20.html

Beware of Online Juror Contact

Web 2.0 has made it much easier to communicate with friends, relatives and fellow attorneys.  But the Internet and Web 2.0 have also created numerous new ethical traps.

For example, many attorneys have recently turned to Google and Facebook to research both potential and sitting jurors. However, attorneys must be very careful to avoid ex parte contact with jurors online.  And ex parte contact can be widely construed according to a recent ethics opinion from the New York City Bar Association.

“If an attorney cannot ascertain the functionality of a website, the attorney must proceed with great caution in conducting research on that particular site, and should keep in mind the possibility that even an accidental, automated notice to the juror could be considered a violation.”

Formal Opinion 2012-2 states that even if an attorney unknowingly or inadvertently “causes a communication with a juror,” such conduct could possibly afoul of the state’s professional conduct rules. And as stated in numerous ethics opinions, attorneys must not use deception to obtain information about potential and sitting jurors. Some attorneys have used other associates and paralegals to send ‘friend’ requests on Facebook to gain access to a juror’s Facebook page.  This is considered deceptive and unethical conduct.

Attorneys ethical duties have become more clouded in the era of Facebook, Google and Twitter.  The New York ethics opinion should serve as guidance in the abscene of rules that directly address the conduct.  Ethics opinions carry a lot of weight with courts and regulators around the country and even if you don’t practice in New York these are valuable resources.

For more information on the subject, click the following links:

We also have an excellent CLE course on the subject featuring Patrick Eckstrom and John Stahmer.  The course in entitled Ethics in a Web 2.0 world and it is accredited for 1 credit hour of legal ethics.

Juror Privacy … Or a Fair Trial?

By Jason Castillo, Director of Legal Education

There is a major conflict brewing in our American legal system.  The conflict pits the electronic privacy rights of jurors against the Sixth Amendment and the right to a fair trial for criminal defendants.  And last week a California Appeals Court decision bolstered the Sixth Amendment – while possibly undermining the SCA and juror privacy.[1] 

In Juror Number One v. Superior Court (Royster) a Third District Court of Appeal panel ruled that a juror who wrote on his Facebook page about the criminal trial must consent to having his online postings turned over to the trial judge for review to determine whether his misconduct was prejudicial against the defendant.  Juror No. 1 argued unsuccessfully that the compelled consent to the release of his Facbook postings violated his Fourth & Fifth Amendment rights, as well as the Stored Communications Act (SCA).  The SCA is a federal law that limits government access to online communications.

Many commentators believe that the Third Circuit’s decision is the first of its kind.  In reaching the decision the Third District reasoned that the SCA only protects third parties like Facebook from being compelled to disclose information such as Juror No. 1’s postings.  Therefore, Juror No. 1 has no protections under the statute. Many privacy advocates claim that this ruling violates the spirit of the SCA – a statute Congress enacted “to fill a gap in the protections afforded by the Fourth Amendment.”[2]

“With smartphones and mobile devices now ever present in our society, jurors around the country simply can’t resist Google mapping the crime scene or updating their Twitter and Facebook accounts with information about the trial.”

However, it does seem as though many jurors have a problem resisting the urge to tweet, blog and Facebok facts and opinions about their case.[3]  Frustrated judges around the country have watched numerous trials compromised by juror’s electronic misconduct.  These judges have turned tried a few different actions to try and preserve defendants Sixth Amendment rights – including contempt findings, confiscating smartphones and enhanced jury instructions.

The Third District’s ruling may present California judges with a new opportunity during jury instructions to warn jurors not to post to social media websites during trial, and that if they do their writings may be subject to inquiry.  But will this be enough?  New York recently amended its jury instructions to advise against electronic communications in criminal cases, but these provisions do not necessarily apply in civil cases.[4]

“… the extent of Juror Number One‟s ‘legitimate expectation of privacy’ under the Fourth Amendment would depend on the extent to which his wall postings are disseminated to others or are available to Facebook or others for targeted advertising.” – Justice Hall

The court dismissed the Fourth Amendment claims because Juror No. 1 had no “legitimate expectation of privacy in the records.”  While many privacy advocates feel this ruling unfairly intrudes into a juror’s privacy and the SCA, the defendant’s Sixth Amendment right to a fair trial trumps these minor instrusions.[5]  Further, if Juror No. 1 did not want the government delving into his electronic affairs he should have listened to the jury instructions – and stayed off Facebook!

I previously blogged about this case back in April (See: Should One Facebook Post Merit a New Trial?)


[1] The appeals court concluded that the juror’s “privacy rights do not trump [the defendant’s] right to a fair trial free from juror misconduct.”

[2] Juror Number One v. Superior Court (Royster).

[3] See Commonwealth v. Werner, 2012 Mass. App. LEXIS 183 (Ct. App. Mass 2012) (new trial denied without waiting for Facebook to respond to subpoena); People v. Wilson, 93 AD 3d 483 (1st Dept. 2012) (juror made Facebook postings advising she was on a jury and her friends made “foolish” replies relating to trials in general but juror said she was not affected by these comments and decided the case impartially).

[4] See CPL §270.40, Rev’d Jury Admonitions, (Rev’d May 5, 2009) (revised to include warning regarding use of electronic devices).

[5] Further, you would have to be a fool to think you have privacy in a social network in today’s day and age.  There is almost no reasonable expectation of privacy for things you post online.

Thoughts on CLE, Web 2.0 & More: Tim Baran

Much has been written, tweeted and blogged about social media over the past few years.   And it’s easy to see why.  Web 2.0 has had quite an affect on society and the law.   In the legal community, the discussion always seems to come back to utility.  What is the ROI for time spent tweeting and Facebooking?

Whenever this question is posed, I always think to myself – what is the value of a relationship?  That’s because without social media I probably would never have met Tim Baran.  Geography is a major barrier because Tim is in New York and I am in California.  However, through Twitter and other social media channels we have communicated almost on a daily basis – although we just spoke by phone for the first time a few weeks ago.  It’s amazing how social media allows you go get to know a person who is miles away!

Since I find Tim to be a highly regarded member of the CLE and legal community – in addition to being great guy – I wanted our readers to get the chance to know Tim a little better.

Tim, how did you initially get started in the Continuing Legal Education field? 

The opportunity presented itself and I seized it.  I was a librarian in a law firm when New York became a mandatory CLE state and my wonderful boss, Alina and I claimed responsibility for getting the firm accredited as a provider.  We were among the first firms to do so.  My role expanded when I became director of the library and CLE and then became all consuming when I started my CLE accreditation venture.

What or who has been the biggest influence in your life?

That’s a poignant question for me Jason.  I’ve encountered so many people that I admire in my professional journey who attribute their success to mentors and who still seek their advice and affirmation.  I tend to absorb from all corners and rely on myself to filter and administer the lessons.  I’ve come to realize that it’s the tougher and not necessarily the wiser path.  I’m not sure if it’s pride or fear or my reluctance to deify anyone; or if the consistent, kind and strong role models my parents provided girded me, but I may yet find that mentor.  Or perhaps, the collective represents my mentorship.

Where does your entrepreneurial drive come from?

To be honest, I’m not sure.  I come from a background and culture where we’re expected to be loyal company men, get our 401K and live a tidy, non-disruptive life.  Maybe it’s the opportunity to have a vehicle for my crazy ideas.  Or as corny as it sounds, to make a difference.

What has been the biggest risk that you have taken? 

Entrepreneurship, by a landslide.  I love the passion and energy.  The community.  Having a vision, and the opportunity to see that vision through.  It’s difficult and consuming, and exhilarating and rewarding.

What are your thoughts on attorneys and social media?

Attorneys need to be on social media.  Period.  The business of law is changing, and not in drips and drabs as it’s done for decades, but rapidly.  Solo and small firm attorneys must become marketers.  Partnership track attorneys in large law firms are now expected to build a book of clients and not ride the gravy train of their predecessors.  Inadvertent marketing, if you will, with low cost, low barrier to entry, and a high level of accessibility.  Marketing is not a bad work.  Do it thoughtfully, do it honestly, do it ethically.  Social media presents a wonderful opportunity to network and establish yourself as an expert or even a thought leader, and in the process build your brand.

How do you feel that technology will continue to influence CLE? 

The CLE profession is moving forward in some ways and remains frustrating laggards in others.   More regulators are adopting an online application process for submitting CLE courses for accreditation and for reporting of attendance by both providers and attorneys.  They need to step on the accelerator.  But there continues to be a significant resistance to a wider adoption of technology as it relates to distance learning and delivery.  There are several factors – fear, job security, bureaucracy, insufficient knowledge and understanding and perhaps data.  That will have to change.  And quickly.

What are some of your favorite blogs to read?

I like authors more than blogs.  There is no blog where every post will be relevant or of particular use to me or any one person.  That’s where RSS feeds come in handy.  I subscribe to almost 100 blog feeds (I refine this constantly) and scan the headlines in my reader every day.  I like authors for their pragmatic content, passion, professionalism and integrity.  And consistency.  Among my favorite bloggers are Mitch Joel, Kevin O’Keefe, Danny Brown, Jay Pinhert and Donna Seyle.  A recent addition is Lee Rosen.  The list goes on and I’m sure I’ve forgotten to mention some, but another unifying characteristic of these bloggers is their meaningful engagement of other media platforms like Twitter, Facebook and Podcasts.

Who are some of your favorite people on Twitter?

There are so many – too many to list.  They all have one of more attributes that I hold dear – they add value, they engage, and they’re kind.  The last one is important.  Regardless of your value or “influence”, if you’re always negative and sarcastic, and your very presence in my stream annoys me, that’s a quick unfollow.  You’re among my favorites, Jason.

How can CLE add value to attorneys in their practice?

CLE provides the opportunity for attorneys to stay on top of changes in the law, profession and related areas of interest and practice areas, acquire new skills, and network with and learn from other members of the legal community.  The mandatory element is a whole other conversation.

What is your chief complaint about State Bars and CLE regulation?

There’s been much to complain about over the years – like the myriad of arcane and unnecessarily punitive rules for attorneys and providers – but I’m starting to see some change.   Like Equipping Our Lawyers, a consortium of CLE organizations that grew out of a CLE Summit, one of the few useful results from the usually impotent Summits.  So instead of my usually railing against the machine, I suggest getting involved with these organizations, like the increasingly cogent Association for Continuing Legal Education (ACLEA)

What’s next for you?

Although I continue to keep a foothold in CLE (I love the community!), a sweet opportunity came along recently and I joined the good folks at Rocket Matter, a dynamic web-based practice management and time tracking software company as their community manager.  What’s a community manager? I’ll have to get back to you on that.  It’s exciting as I explore new horizons and humbling as I discover how much I have to learn.  I feel deeply privileged to have access to a remarkable team with visionary leaders.

Thanks, Jason, for the opportunity to reflect and process!

As always, thank you for sharing Tim!

To Sue the Online Reviewer?

“It created a story where there was none: Now it will show up in search, now it will attract attention. … It’s snowballing now, and it didn’t have to.”[1] – Jay Pinkert

Here’s the question of today: what do you do when your law firm gets a negative online review?

  • a. Ignore it.
  • b. Sue the anonymous blogger.
  • c. Comment on the negative post
  • d. Never use a computer again.

After thinking about the question and asking for feedback from my peers, we have decided that (c) is the best answer. The problem with suing the anonymous blogger is that you make a story where there would otherwise be none.

A Dallas law firm recently faced the same dilemma. An anonymous blogger had left negative comments about the firm. Here is what ‘Ben’ wrote:

After doing a little investigation the firm found out that the comments originated from Oregon. Since the Texas firm had never represented anyone from Oregon they deduced that the anonymous blogger was not a former client.

The firm then turned to Google to remove the comment … but by then it was too late. Google is like Hotel California – your comments can never leave. Once Google’s search engine ‘picks you up’ those negative results will still continue to turn up in searches – just ask Rick Santorum.  Since the Texas law firm relied on Internet traffic for a large portion of its business, it decided it had no alternative but to sue the anonymous blogger.

However, I read about this story on the law technology news – an outlet for law/technology geeks like myself. By filing a lawsuit, this firm had taken an issue would have gone relatively unnoticed and greatly magnified it.

Here, instead of turning to litigation, the better course of action might have been to write a follow up post to the review and then let the situation die down.  Once your firm picks up some more positive reviews, the one negative comment will be overshadowed.  You could also seek further facts about why the consumer left the negative review or you could even get creative – offer ‘Ben’ further legal representation at no cost since he was not previously satisfied.  That might make the situation better.

I think we’ve come to the point now when most of us know about online reviews – and the people that write them.[2]  And if a person doesn’t know the difference between an online rant and an intelligible review, then maybe you don’t want to represent that person anyway.

In the age of Avvo.com some attorneys and firms have become obsessed with managing and defending their online reputation. And there’s nothing wrong with that – you should actively monitor what’s being said about you online (Google alerts are a good start).

But when you or your firm get attacked online and it’s time to respond, try to use common sense instead of turning into a lawyer and suing the reviewer. Is the $50,000 really going to make you whole again? The damage has already been done – and it’s probably worse than $50K … and only getting worse the more people hear about the story.

For a link to the complaint, click here.


[1] Dallas Firm Sues ‘Doe’ Defendant Over Online Review

http://bit.ly/y8Ntro

[2] Slightly unrelated to the law, but an online of a local hiking trail comes to mind. The online reviewer gave the local San Diego trail one star because it didn’t compare to Yosemite. Well, very few trails do and I can’t get in my car and drive 8 hours to the Sierra Nevada Mountains!

Are Bloggers Journalists?

‘Investigative Blogger’ Crystal Cox was ordered to pay $2.5 million this week for defaming the owner of Oregon investment firm Obsidian Financial. Cox runs various law related blogs like industrywhistleblower.com, judicialhellhole.com, and obsidianfinancesucks.com.

The distinction between “journalist” and “blogger” made a very large difference in the case. Because U.S. District Court Judge Marco A. Hernandez found that Cox was not a journalist she was not entitled to the protections of the Oregon media shield statute. The Oregon media law reads:

No person connected with, employed by or engaged in any medium of communication to the public shall be required by … a judicial officer … to disclose, by subpoena or otherwise … [t]he source of any published or unpublished information obtained by the person in the course of gathering, receiving or processing information for any medium of communication to the public[.]

Judge Hernandez’s finding that Cox was not a journalist mainly hinged on the fact that Cox was not employed by an official media establishment and failed to produce evidence of her status as a journalist. The judge found that there was no evidence of:

  1. Any education in journalism;
  2. Any credentials or proof of any affiliation with any recognized news entity;
  3. Proof of adherence to journalistic standards such as editing, fact-checking, or disclosures of conflicts of interest;
  4. Keeping notes of conversations and interviews conducted;
  5. Mutual understanding or agreement of confidentiality between the defendant and his/her sources;
  6. Creation of an independent product rather than assembling writings and postings of others; or
  7. Contacting “the other side” to get both sides of a story.

However, bloggers don’t be alarmed. There are two main points that seem to limit the application of this case.

First, this case was decided on the Oregon media shield statute. This may not be the law in your state. For example, some commentators feel that the outcome would not have been the same in Washington State.[1] Also, blogs are not defined in Oregon’s laws as “media.” This may not be the case in your state.

Second, it appears as though Cox does not have the cleanest of hands. According to Forbes staff writer Kashmir Hill many of Cox’s blog posts were ‘unhinged.’ Further, according to the Forbes article Cox allegedly contacted Obsidian Financial earlier in 2011 and offered to provide them with “reputation services” for $2500 a month.

I will leave it to Ms. Kasmir Hill of Forbes for the lesson in all of this:[2]

Yes, there are bloggers who are journalists. But just because you have a blog doesn’t mean that what you do is journalism.

Click here to read the PDF of the case.


[1] See: Unlike Oregon, Bloggers Are Journalists in Washington State, Do Qualify for Legal Protections

http://blogs.seattleweekly.com/dailyweekly/2011/12/unlike_oregon_bloggers_are_jou.php

[2] Why An Investment Firm Was Awarded $2.5 Million After Being Defamed By Blogger

http://www.forbes.com/sites/kashmirhill/2011/12/07/investment-firm-awarded-2-5-million-after-being-defamed-by-blogger/

Time to Add a Disclaimer to Your Blog?

As I blogged about previously, earlier in the month the Virginia Bar charged attorney Richmond Attorney Horace Hunter with misconduct due to his Richmond Criminal Defense News blog (PDF here).[1]

The attorney in question has now been found guilty of violating the Virginia ethics rules regarding advertising. Don’t fear for Hunter, his penalty was a public admonition and he was told take corrective action within 30 days – public admonition is the least sever penalty available.

Specifically, the Virginia Disciplinary Committee found that Hunter violated an ethical rule that mandated an advertising disclaimer on his blog when he wrote about his own legal cases.  Under Virginia Ethics Rule 7.2 Hunter must ethically post a disclaimer on the homepage of his blog.[2]  Since Hunter didn’t have the disclaimer in his blog posts noting his firm’s wins to be advertising, the Committee found his conduct to be unethical.

The Committee further found that Horace Frazier Hunter violated rules by disclosing detrimental or embarrassing information about clients without their consent.  Apparently, at least two former clients said they did not want their cases posted on Hunter’s blog after learning that he had written about their cases.

Hunter had argued that his blog consisted of news and commentary and refused to post the disclaimer as a violation of his First Amendment free speech rights. He claimed that since the information he posted was accurate and disclosed during public trials, that he did not violate any confidences.

“Although I adamantly disagree with the panel’s decision, I do respect it” [3]

The Virginia Disciplinary Committee contends that the disclaimer is aimed at preventing potential clients from being misled – something that could generate mistrust of the justice system or make clients mistrust their lawyers.  The Committee did not see the First Amendment as being involved in the case.

“The First Amendment has no bearing on this violation. … It doesn’t impact journalists, it doesn’t impact bloggers, it doesn’t impact the general public.” – Renu Brennan, Assistant Virginia Bar Counsel [4]

Will this move have the chilling effect that some have proposed? [5]  I doubt it.  Attorneys might, however, want to start including a disclaimer on their blog if they talk about their cases.

Further, it’s always wise to remember to remain ethical in our new Web 2.0 World. Absent a specific rule or guideline, it’s always wise to use common sense.


[2] However, this Rule 7.2 Disclaimer Rule is only to apply, “when listing previous wins in advertising.”  The disclaimer must state that prior results don’t guarantee future success. The issue will be will be whether Hunter’s blog posts are written in a truly journalistic fashion, or are they simply disguised advertising taking the form of blog posts

[3] See: Virginia Bar Rules that Lawyer Violated Advertising Rules with his Blog

[4] See: Virginia Bar Rules that Lawyer Violated Advertising Rules with his Blog

[5] The Washington Post‘s Capital Business Blog originally reported the story and stirred the pot when it cautioned that the action against Hunter could have a chilling effect on blogging in the legal industry. Washington Posts’s Catherine Ho (@WapoCat on Twitter) warned that Virginia lawyers who blog about their cases may suffer  the consequences from their state bar.  Ms. Ho also state that the Hunter case could set precedent for other states bar’s limiting legal blogs.

Blogging: Advertisement or Journalism?

Advertising has been a vexing problem for the legal profession for years now.  Before legal advertising was deemed legal with the 1977 Supreme Court decision in Bates v. Arizona, the fear was that advertising would erode notions of professionalism. And since advertising become legal for attorneys, we have had to suffer though the late night ‘Larry Parker got me $2.1 million’ commercials.

This tension between professionalism and advertising has followed into the online realms as well.  Chat rooms, websites and Internet Referral Services have all been fertile ground for attorney advertising – and unethical conduct.

Now blogs are at issue … once again.  The questions becomes, how big is the threat?

Attorney Horace Hunter, who maintains the Richmond Criminal Defense News blog has been charged with misconduct by the Virginia State Bar (PDF here). The Washington Post‘s Capital Business blog recently stirred the pot when it cautioned that the action against Hunter could have a chilling effect on blogging in the legal industry.[1]

However, the Washington Post‘s Capitol Business blog could be way off base here. The main issue in the case is whether a blog should be treated as advertising or as news & commentary.

Hunter asserts that the blog is not an advertisement, but rather consists of news and commentary. Since his blog falls into a ‘news and commentary’ category, no disclaimer is required and the blog is protected by the First Amendment.  The Virginia State Bar contends that Hunter’s blog is advertising and as such, under Virginia Ethics Rule 7.2 Hunter must ethically post a disclaimer on his website.  Since Hunter didn’t have the disclaimer in his blog posts noting his firm’s wins, the Bar claims this is unethical.

However, this Rule 7.2 Disclaimer Rule is only to apply, “when listing previous wins in advertising.”  The disclaimer must state that prior results don’t guarantee future success. The issue will be will be whether Hunter’s blog posts are written in a truly journalistic fashion, or are they simply disguised advertising taking the form of blog posts.[2]

The Viriginia State Bar claims may ultimately hold merit. Carolyn Elefant seems to think that Hunter’s blog is a thinly veiled newsfeed of his firm’s triumphs and successes. You can see for yourself by visiting the blog here.

We will have to see what the Virginia Bar decides, the hearing is set for October 18th.  Even if the Bar succeeds, attorneys will merely have to place some small text reading “Attorney Advertising” on the footer of the main blog page – not even at the bottom of each post. This is not a major issue.  Further, as Kevin O’keefe of RLHB points out there is no record of disciplinary action against Virginia attorneys regarding blogging dating back to 1999.

Brief summary of Advertising rules & issues:

  • Lawyers cannot state anything false or misleading
  • Lawyers cannot state they are a specialists, unless so certified by their respective State Bar
  • Lawyers cannot use testimonials in some states with the implication that past performance will dictate future results
  • It’s smart to include a disclaimer on your website that you practice in a certain geographic region to avoid unauthorized practice of law claims
  • Use common sense – if you can’t do it on the T.V. or the radio, you can’t state it in your website, blog, Twitter, or Facebook (remember Rakofsky!)

Further Resources:


[1] Washington Posts’s Catherine Ho (@WapoCat on Twitter) warns that Virginia lawyers who blog about their cases may suffer  the consequences from their state bar.  Ms. Ho also state that the Hunter case could set precedent fo other states bar’s limiting legal blogs.

[2] One thing that I have found in years of tracking these ethics and technologies issues is that each case must be decided on a case-by-case basis. Because each case involves specific electronic conduct by the attorney or firm at issue, it’s tough to make blanket statements on the merits of one case. There are numerous firms – especially P.I. firms – whose blogs are thinly veiled advertisements or direct solicitations. And that may be the case here.

Calling All Bloggers

I wanted to personally introduce a new feature that is now available to our presenters. The ability to add blog posts on our Attorney Credits Blog. While we have spent a good part of our efforts making the best website on the Internet for attorneys to get CLEs, we have recently been re-branding our Content Partner pages. With the launch of our newly redesigned site (with all it’s cool new features) in two months, our speakers will now be featured on our Featured Faculty pages. This section of the website has received a total makeover and will be a vast improvement over our current pages.

We try to make speaking on attorneycredits.com easy. We give speakers free CLEs for life and great SEO juice with our new Featured Faculty pages. On top of that we blog, twitter, facebook and all the other social media voodoo we can.