Lawyers frequently use social media to market their name and their business. Nowadays, almost every lawyer has a website, blog, LinkedIn profile, Facebook profile, or other online account. It is important to make sure you are not displaying false or misleading communication about yourself or your services as a lawyer on your professional online accounts. Here are some ethical issues you should check:
Be aware of false endorsements, whether they are LinkedIn endorsements or a review written about you. A lawyer should not make or allow any false or misleading communication about the lawyer or about the lawyer’s services. (RPC 7.1) 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. (RPC 7.1) An endorsement on LinkedIn may be a false or misleading communication! Remember, lawyers are responsible for taking reasonable steps to ensure that truthful statements are made about their services. (RPC 7.1, Comment 1)
Quid pro quo endorsements
Using LinkedIn to return a favor to a friend can be problematic if the favor is an endorsement that is false or misleading. Lawyers can “endorse” other lawyers if the endorsement is based on their actual knowledge and understanding of the lawyer’s services. Regardless, agreeing to endorse someone else’s LinkedIn page for a gift or fee is a violation of the RPCs. (RPC 7.1, 7.2 (B), 8.4)
According to RPC 7.4, a lawyer can communicate that the lawyer does or does not practice in a particular field of law. However, a lawyer cannot state or imply that he or she is a “specialist” in a particular field of law, unless the lawyer is engaged in admiralty practice or is admitted to practice before the United States Patent and Trademark Office.
A lawyer is responsible for all of the links on his or her professional website. Screen your professional online accounts to make sure that your website and any other online media are free from false or misleading information. It is especially important to monitor information that other people post or link to on your professional page, in order to ensure that communications about legal services are truthful and in compliance with the RPCs. (Washington State Advisory Opinion 2070)
One thought on “Social Media and Legal Ethics: LinkedIn Endorsements”
Ms. Hamidi is absolutely right about the prohibition on quid pro quo endorsements and this practice comes up surprisingly often. Many attorneys appear to believe that etiquette requires a “return” endorsement if one attorney (maybe without justification) endorses another on LinkedIn, etc. Others have also correctly pointed out that the basis for a justified endorsement could stem from something broader than first-hand experience, such as reputation with colleagues.
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