Can a lawyer respond to comments on their blog without creating an attorney client relationship?

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.

Trial lawyer turned legal tech entrepreneur, I am the founder and CEO of LexBlog, a legal blog community of over 30,000 blog publishers, worldwide. LexBlog’s publishing platform is used on a subscription basis by over 18,000 legal professionals, including the largest law firm in each India, China and the United States.

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