Ethical Tips for Lawyers Online: Part 3

Continuing the discussion from Part 1 and Part 2, lawyers are using online resources more than ever to generate business, communicate with clients and potential clients, interact with other lawyers and the public, and discuss their practice areas.

What about Twitter?

Like other social media platforms, Twitter can implicate the Rules of Professional Conduct. Most commonly, attorney tweets may implicate rules regarding advertising, specifically rules regarding false or misleading information regarding attorney services.

The State Bar of California makes a distinction between posts that discuss general legal information, and those that relay information about the attorney’s legal practice, such as complaints she has filed and victories in court.

The State Bar has stated that under California rules and statutes, tweets such as “Case finally over. Unanimous verdict! Celebrating tonight,” and “Just published an article on wage and hour breaks. Let me know if you would like a copy” do not run afoul of ethics rules, because they simply relay facts, and do not necessarily constitute advertising.

However, tweets in which the attorney states, “My client is delighted. Who wants to be next?” or “Won a million dollar verdict. Tell your friends to check out my website,” or “Won another personal injury case. Call me for a free consultation,” do constitute attorney advertising, and the content of the tweets must therefore conform to advertising rules. Under Ohio Rules, posts such as these must not contain misrepresentations or misleading information (Rule 7.1), must contain the name and office address of at least one attorney responsible for its content (Rule 7.2(c)), and must contain a notation that the communication is advertising material (Rule 7.3(c)).

Check back for the final part of this series that will cover Groupon.