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Lawyer blogs are not advertising

February 17, 2007

As the issue of ethics and lawyer blogs is being discussed in different states, it’s becoming clear that lawyer blogs are not advertising subjecting them to ethics regulations on advertising.

The latest coms from David Curtin, chief disciplinary counsel of the Rhode Island Supreme Court Disciplinary Council, in today’s Providence Business News:

An attorney has a right, just like anyone else, to publicly express his or her opinion, and without government regulation. Whether a blog is [considered] an advertisement would depend on the content of the blog.

If an attorney’s blog were to bolster his firm’s services in a particular area, that might be considered advertising……If a potential client contacts a lawyer after reading a blog, there is nothing wrong with that.

‘Bolstering your firm’s services’ is going to take more than providing information on niche topic through a blog with the hope of attracting new clients.

That’s already happening in Rhode Island with the Rhode Island Law Journal, Rhode Island Nursing Home Neglect, and Quantum Quahog. None have been viewed as advertising.

Update: Fom Jon Pincinc at Rhode Island Law Journal, No Quandary Here, Just a Blog. Despite the [Providence Business News] article’s title (’A Quandry Over Lawyer’s Blogs’), I am not sure who PBN is suggesting is in a predicament or dilemma here. It’s not the bloggers, who simply provide information and voice opinions, and it’s not the regulators of lawyer conduct, who seem to understand the First Amendment. Maybe PBN was the one in a pickle – about how to create an issue where there is not one. Law blogs are not revolutionary. Lawyers have been authoring newsletters, journal articles, op-eds and other writings for as long as there have been lawyers. Blogs are just the newest medium.
Update: From AELR BLOG, Mr. Pincince makes an interesting point. Possibly, blogs are simply the newest medium for laywers to voice their opinions. Newsletters and journals, which allow attorneys to voice their opinions, are not subject to the rules of ethical conduct. Why should blogs be subjet to the rules of professional conduct? Blogs, however, reach a wider audience than journals and newsletters. Blogs can reach potential clients of the attorney blogger. If the blog brings in clients, then the blog should be more closely scrutinized and subject to the ethical rules concerning attorney advertising.

Maybe the chief disciplinary counsel of the R.I. Supreme Court Disciplinary Council was correct from the start. Whether a blog is advertising simply depends upon the content of the blog. It will be interesting to watch this debate unfold and to see how other states regulate attorney blogs.