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New Florida legal ethics rules have little effect on law blogs

The Florida Supreme Court has amended the rules governing lawyer and law firm websites effective January 1, 2010. Do the rules effect law blogs? Not much.

Until now, Florida considered websites “information upon request” and therefore exempt from Florida lawyer advertising rules. The Court has amended Florida Rule 4-7.6 (Computer-Accessed Communications) to make lawyer websites subject to Florida’s substantive lawyer advertising rules. The one exception being that websites will not be required to be filed with the Bar for review.

The result is that websites may no longer include:

  • References to past results or successes.
  • Testimonials.
  • Statements characterizing the quality of a lawyer’s services (laudatory statements).

Are blogs considered websites under Florida legal ethics rules? Good question. Blogs are not referenced in the amended rules.

The amended rules apply to “Computer-accessed communications” defined as:

[I]nformation regarding a lawyer’s or law firm’ s services that is read, viewed, or heard directly through the use of a computer. Computer-accessed communications include, but are not limited to, Internet presences such as websites, unsolicited electronic mail communications, and information concerning a lawyer’s or law firm’s services that appears on Internet search engine screens and elsewhere. (emphasis added)

Presuming your law blog conveys information about your or your law firm’s services, your blog is covered. This is the case for virtually all LexBlog Network blogs which include pages about the lawyer/law firm as well as the services the lawyer or firm offers. Such information is required if you want to authenticate yourself as a reliable and trusted authority that is worth reading and citing.

If your law blog is does not mention your services, and is limited to information, insight, and commentary, you may have an argument that your blog is not covered by the amended rules.

The safe route for any law blog published by a Florida lawyer or law firm is not to include reference to successes, testimonials, or laudatory statements. Most successful law blogs don’t include such references anyway.

Thanks to Law Professor Timothy Shiners (information on his sunEthics website) and Florida website developer, Pete Boyd, (blog post) for the helpful information they provided on the Florida amended rules.

You may download a copy of the Florida Supreme Court decision (pdf) amending the rules here.

  • Nancy

    Kevin:
    The deadline for compliance has been extened to June 2010. Blogs still must comply with the Florida Bar rules so be careful about results oriented postings!
    Nancy

  • http://mintzwordz.com Mike Mintz

    Thanks for the post Kevin. FL seems to be cracking down on lawyer participation in social media. Do you or any readers know why this jurisdiction is getting tighter regulations? Did something in FL precipitate this (we all read about the Judge/friending opinion, but this is really expansive)?

  • http://kevin.lexblog.com Kevin OKeefe

    Thanks for that catch Nancy, I’ll update the post.
    On the crack down on social media Mike, the only thing I saw was the limit on judges befriending local lawyers to eliminate the chance as being as givng favorable treatment etc.
    I agree though that it’s not a big step for the Bar to now get into meddling with social media. But it may be more apt to estblish legal ethics rules for golf course networking, something there’s more of in Florida and something the Florida Bar and Supreme Court know something about.

  • http://www.legalwebpro.com Nick

    You may want to update the article. There are new changes pending. Check out the following URL.
    http://www.floridabar.org/tfb/TFBLawReg.nsf/E0F40AF2C23904C785256709006A3713/F0F34CEAE87853CC85256B2F006C8848?OpenDocument