The State Bar of California’s new ethics opinion finally addresses a fuzzy issue: whether attorney blogs are considered advertising. The Bar has decided that personal attorney blogs that are separate from a law firm website do not count as advertising. Well, in most cases. Clear as mud, right? In any case, if you blog, here’s what you need to know to ensure that it meets all ethical standards.
Do not use a personal blog to advertise.
You can write as many posts as you want about legal issues, the consequences of potential legislation and your own opinions about current events. You can write specifically about your area of practice. Your blog can even link to your firm’s website in the byline. But the one thing you definitely can’t write on a personal law blog is, “hire me”. Keep any blatant appeals to new clients off of your blog entirely.
If you’re writing about your case results, you’re probably advertising.
The new opinion also defines and advises against “implicit solicitation”. Even if you never explicitly tell the reader to hire you, if you write about the services you offer or include, “detailed descriptions of case results,” you’re implicitly advertising. Save that for your website, and use your blog to speak more broadly about legal issues.
It’s completely fine to identify yourself as an attorney on any blog.
You’re free to write a personal blog about any topic you want, from food to sports to politics. And according to the Bar, there’s no issue with saying that you’re an attorney on any blog, whether it’s related to the law or not. It’s also acceptable to link your personal blog to your firm website and vice versa.
The Bar automatically considers law firm website blogs to be advertising.
If your law firm’s website hosts the blog, all of the guidelines I just explained will no longer apply. According to the Bar, blogs on law firm websites follow the same rules, “as the website of which it is a part”. Since your website is considered a form of advertising, any content posted on it is advertising—so anything is fair game.