January 31, 2014

FAMILY LAW: Common Ethical Pitfalls of Digital Marketing

It’s no wonder that so many lawyers get into trouble inadvertently—always playing catch-up to master the latest in Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, blogs, videos, website optimization, online lawyer referrals, and podcasts, to name only a few of the shiny new marketing tools of the digital age. Mind you, there are a few bad apples flaunting the rules, but many more lawyers are simply haplessly trying to figure out what’s proper and what’s not. Herewith, a guiding hand.

Read the rules. For purposes of this article, we are going to talk about the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct because all but one state have adopted them, although not always verbatim. Study your own state rules, but know that most share the common threads we’ll discuss.

First, bone up on Rules 5.1 through 5.3. As an attorney, you have a duty to supervise junior lawyers and nonlawyers who work for you. There’s no such thing as claiming that “Bob” or “Jill” had responsibility for the firm’s website or social media posts. The buck stops with the lawyer/supervisor of the person in question. Then read through Rules 7.1 through 7.5, which largely govern advertising by lawyers.

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