Jan. 16 — A California attorney's “stand-alone” blog is subject to lawyer advertising standards if the blog signals the lawyer's availability for professional employment either directly by express invitation or implicitly by describing the lawyer's services or giving detailed summaries of case results, according to a proposed opinion from the California bar's ethics committee.
The opinion also states that a lawyer's nonlegal blog is not subject to attorney advertising rules merely because it includes a link to the lawyer's professional website; but “A blog that is a part of an attorney’s or law firm’s professional website will be subject to the rules regulating attorney advertising to the same extent as the website of which it is a part.”
The committee is asking for public comment by March 23.
The committee advised that a lawyer's blog must comply with California Rule of Professional Conduct 1-400 (advertising and solicitation) if the content expresses the lawyer's availability for professional employment, either directly or indirectly.
Rule 1-400 defines covered “communications” as messages or offers directed to former, present or prospective clients “concerning the availability for professional employment” of a lawyer or law firm, the opinion notes.
Similar to the guidance the committee provided about social media posts in California Formal Ethics Op. 2012-186, 29 Law. Man. Prof. Conduct 40, the proposed opinion advises that “a blog post which contains an offer to the reader to engage the attorney, or is a step towards securing potential employment such as offering a free consultation, is a ‘communication' within the meaning of rule 1-400 and subject to the rule’s requirements and conditions, while those which provide or offer only information or informational materials are not.”
The committee structured its advice around four patterns of attorney blogs:
• A criminal defense lawyer's self-promotional blog—“Perry Mason? He's Got Nothing on Me!”— describing his courtroom successes without allowing interactive comments qualifies as a communication subject to Rule 1-400, even though the blog doesn't expressly invite readers to retain the lawyer.
• A law firm blog containing short articles on legal issues of potential interest to the firm's clients counts as a communication covered by Rule 1-400 because it is part of the firm's website, even though the blog provides information and material of general public interest.
• A solo family lawyer's blog that features short articles on family law issues without describing the lawyer's practice or cases would not be a communication subject to Rule 1-400 if it omitted a concluding statement inviting readers to contact the lawyer if they have any questions about their divorce or custody case.
• A lawyer's separate blog about jazz is not a communication for purposes of Rule 1-400 even though it contains a link to his professional website.
When a lawyer's separate blog involves a nonlegal topic or a topic unrelated to his practice area, a link to the lawyer's professional pages merely identifies the lawyer and does not transform the blog into advertising, the committee said.
However, when the subject matter of a lawyer's separate blog is closely related to the lawyer's practice area, a link to the lawyer's professional or firm website would indirectly convey an invitation to employ the lawyer, the opinion states.
Copyright 2015, the American Bar Association and The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
All Bloomberg BNA treatises are available on standing order, which ensures you will always receive the most current edition of the book or supplement of the title you have ordered from Bloomberg BNA’s book division. As soon as a new supplement or edition is published (usually annually) for a title you’ve previously purchased and requested to be placed on standing order, we’ll ship it to you to review for 30 days without any obligation. During this period, you can either (a) honor the invoice and receive a 5% discount (in addition to any other discounts you may qualify for) off the then-current price of the update, plus shipping and handling or (b) return the book(s), in which case, your invoice will be cancelled upon receipt of the book(s). Call us for a prepaid UPS label for your return. It’s as simple and easy as that. Most importantly, standing orders mean you will never have to worry about the timeliness of the information you’re relying on. And, you may discontinue standing orders at any time by contacting us at 1.800.960.1220 or by sending an email to email@example.com.
Put me on standing order at a 5% discount off list price of all future updates, in addition to any other discounts I may quality for. (Returnable within 30 days.)
Notify me when updates are available (No standing order will be created).
This Bloomberg BNA report is available on standing order, which ensures you will all receive the latest edition. This report is updated annually and we will send you the latest edition once it has been published. By signing up for standing order you will never have to worry about the timeliness of the information you need. And, you may discontinue standing orders at any time by contacting us at 1.800.372.1033, option 5, or by sending us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Put me on standing order
Notify me when new releases are available (no standing order will be created)