I understand that I’m not the only attorney out there who writes blogs from time to time. Blogging can be a very useful tool to inform your audience about your services and build credibility. Most importantly, it allows your readers to become comfortable with you and view you as a resource and less of a stranger.
But, remember that you cannot simply say anything you want on your blog. The rules of your jurisdiction apply to you, even when you are blogging. What does this mean? Tort rules apply to you even in cyberspace. So, if you say things that are not true, you could be sued for libel. Also, you cannot write in violation of your state’s rules of professional responsibility. For example, you cannot write something misleading or fraudulent.
A recent disciplinary case by the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission highlights that this is not merely a hypothetical concern. Here is a link to the National Law Journal’s story about the case. The NLJ article provides a further link to the blog which is at issue in the case against the Illinois attorney. In their complaint, the ARDC alleges that the attorney’s blog violates several of Illinois’ rules of professional responsibility because of negative remarks in the blog. The attorney responds with First Amendment arguments.
Attracting a bar inquiry is not productive for your reputation or your business. Even if you win, you lose. You lose because you would have spent a great deal of uncompensated time in defending your case. Of course, if you lose you could lose even more, including your license to practice law.
Blogs and social media can be a great way to increase your visibility in the community and increase the volume of your practice. Just be careful you do not vent like you might to your law partner in the privacy of your own office. When you are writing a blog or a social media post, even though you are typing in the privacy of your own office, it is a very public and permanent expression.
Stephen C. Hartnett, J.D., LL.M.
Associate Director of Education
American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys, Inc.
9444 Balboa Avenue, Suite 300
San Diego, California 92123
Phone: (858) 453-2128