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General Considerations Regarding Law Firm Websites and Blogs
A.What ethical rules apply
to attorneys’ use of websites as a way to obtain clients?
provisions regarding dishonest conduct
ABA Model Rule 8.4 (implemented in some form in virtually all
(1)Paragraph (a): "It
is professional misconduct for a lawyer to violate or
attempt to violate the rules of professional conduct, knowingly assist or
induce another to do so, or do so through the acts of another."
(2)Paragraph (c): "It is professional misconduct for a lawyer to engage in
conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation."
2.Advertising rules applicable to websites
principles incorporated in the rules of most states
Model Rule 7.1: "A lawyer shall not make a false or misleading communication
about the lawyer or the lawyer's services.A
communication is false or misleading if it contains a material
misrepresentation of fact or law, or omits a fact necessary to make the
statement considered as a whole not materially misleading."
Model Rule 7.2:
(a): "Subject to the requirements of rules 7.1 and a 7.3, a lawyer make
advertised services through written, recorded or electronic communication,
including public media."
(c): "any communication made pursuant to this rule shall include the name
and office address of at least one lawyer or law firm responsible for its
b)State-specific advertising rules
Online information regarding state advertising rules:
labeling of the communication as an advertisement
identification of a licensed attorney within the jurisdiction
of actors and props
about prior success
principles incorporated in the rules of most states::
Model Rule 7.3 :
(a): "A lawyer shall not by in-person, live telephone or real-time
electronic contact solicit professional employment from a prospective
client when a significant motive for the lawyer's doing so is the
lawyer's pecuniary gain, unless the person contacted (1) is a lawyer; or
(2) has a family close personal, or prior professional relationship with
(b): "A lawyer shall not solicit professional employment from a
prospective client by written, recorded or electronic communication or
by in-person, telephone or real-time electronic contact even when not
otherwise prohibited by paragraph (a)if: (1) the
prospective client has made known to the lawyer a desire not to be
solicited by the lawyer; or (2) orthe solicitation
involves coercion, duress or harassment."
Special prohibitions relating to disasters:
Example: Aviation Disaster Family Assistance Act of 1996, 49 USC
“Unsolicited communications -- In the event of an accident involving an
air carrier…no unsolicited communication concerning a potential action
for personal injury or wrongful death may be made by an attorney
(including any associate, agent, employee, or other representative of an
attorney) or any potential party to the litigation to an individual
injured in the accident, or to a relative of an individual involved in
the accident, before the 45th day following the date of the accident.”
(b)State laws: Example: Kentucky Supreme Court Rule[SCR] 3.130(7.09)(4): "Any communication pursuant to rule 7.029
(3) [to wit, "any "written, recorded or electronic communication from a
lawyer or soliciting professional employment from a prospective client
known or reasonably believed to be in need of legal services in a
particular matter, and with whom the lawyer has no family or prior
professional relationship"] shall be sent to those prospective clients
who have been involved in a disaster as defined in SCR 3.130 (7.60)
Article III (1) only after 30 (30) days had elapsed from the occurrence
of the disaster."
to prospective clients that may be triggered by the receipt of e-mail
Model Rule 1.18:
(1)Paragraph (a): "A person who discusses with a lawyer of the possibility of
forming a client-a lawyer relationship with respect to a matter is a
(2)Paragraph (b): "Even when no client-lawyer relationship ensues, a lawyer who
has had discussions with a prospective client shall not use or reveal
information learned in the consultation, except as Rule 1.9 would permit
with respect to information of a former client."
(c): "A lawyer is subject to paragraph (b) shall not represent a client with
interests materially adverse to those of a prospective client in the same or
a substantially related matter if the lawyer received information from the
prospective client that could be significantly harmful to that person in the
matter, except as provided in paragraph (d). ..."
(4) Paragraph (d): "When the lawyer has received disqualifying information as
defined in paragraph (c), representation is permissible if: (1) both the
affected client and the prospective client have given informed consent,
confirmed in writing, or: (2) the lawyer who received the information took
reasonable measures to avoid exposure to more disqualifying information than
was reasonably necessary to determine whether to represent the prospective
clients; and (i) the disqualified lawyer is timely screened from any
participation in the matter and is apportioned no part of the fee therefrom;
and (ii) written notice is promptly given to the prospective client."
How can attorneys and
law firms implement those rules?
the rules of every jurisdiction in which the firm practices
advance review and approval if required or if possible
of the firm's practice, the content of the website and the type of e-mail
contact that is reasonably anticipated
C. What is the impact of
the Internet's ability to reach prospective clients outside of an attorney's
jurisdiction?? Does this change the
application/implementation of the rules concerning web-based advertising?
attorney advertising rules of most states apply to all advertisements of
legal services that are directed to persons within the jurisdiction
website should therefore include:
clear statement of the jurisdictions in which the lawyer or firm practices;
clear statement that the site has not been posted on the Internet for the
purpose of advertising the firm's services in which it is not authorized to
D.How can a firm deal with
uncertainties regarding choice-of-law rules?
A law office website should comply with the requirements of (1) all
jurisdictions in which the firm practices, and (2) all jurisdictions
from which the firm reasonably expects to attract clients.
This article discusses issues that are highly
fact-dependent and questions that can be approached in a variety of ways.
It also addresses matters on which reasonable minds may differ and
describes situations that necessarily require the exercise of good
Consequently, the author makes no representation about the "correct" interpretation of any
rule of law discussed in this article
or any warranty about how that rule will be applied to any specific set of facts.
Likewise, the information contained in this article should not be
construed as a recommendation regarding the course of action anyone should
pursue in a particular situation or as a prediction about
what any decision-maker will do.
In short, any reliance upon this article is a matter
of choice that lies entirely within
the considered judgment of the reader. The reader is encouraged to seek the assistance
of an attorney competent in the field of legal ethics
regarding any situation that involves, or may involve, a serious issue of
compliance with the Rules of Professional Conduct.
The content of this page is provided for use as general information only.
Nothing on this page should be construed as legal advice or legal opinion regarding any specific set of facts or circumstances.
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