A marketing professional in a large Midwest law firm contacted me this morning regarding a concern her firm’s lawyers raised with regard to responding to comments on the firm’s blogs.
The lawyers believed that a lawyer cannot respond to a comment on a law blog without creating an attorney-client relationship. I thought I’d share my response with you.
I believe a lawyer can respond to comments on a blog without creating an attorney-client relationship. It is done every day by thousands of lawyers across this country. I have never heard of one case where it was alleged that an attorney client relationship has formed by virtue of a lawyer’s comment on a blog.
Could a lawyer create an attorney-client relationship by replying to comments on a blog? Certainly. One situation would be a case where someone is looking for specific advise to a specific fact situation and the lawyer responses with legal advice — not general information.
Whether an attorney-client relationship is formed is determined by ‘a reasonable man standard.’ Would a reasonable person construe a lawyer’s comment to a blog post that shared general information/commentary as creating an attorney client relationship? I don’t believe so.
Think of a conference with a lawyer on a panel in front of industry professionals (people who hire lawyers). Imagine a lawyer saying I don’t respond to audience questions nor do I comment on what other panelists are saying because I would be creating an attorney client relationship. Make sense for a lawyer to say that? How would the lawyer be perceived by her peers, clients, and prospective clients?
The same rules of social interaction/legal ethics that applied pre-net, apply on the Internet. Good judgment still dictates.