Attorney ethics challenges of Twitter

Here is a another link to a discussion of how Twitter could run afoul of ethics rules.  If you have an RSS feed on your Twitter page for “attorneys AND Minneapolis” and someone tweets you asking if anyone knows a good entertainment attorney in Minneapolis, if you as the entertainment attorney or are someone who recommends an entertainment attorney and you respond via Twitter, could you run afoul of ethics rules?

The ABA panel recommended either emailing a response back or Tweeting a response sending the person to your website and having them make an inquiry through the website.  I’m sure these were “to be safe” requirements but above in the same summary, the panel suggested that these disputes were governed on a state by state basis and unless the particular state had an aggressive ban on solicitation, its unlikely responding via Twitter would pose a problem.

My suggestion? Create a online policy about how you interact with potential clients and post it to your website and explain how it conforms with your state ethics rules.  Will this shield you from all harm?  No, but given the fluid and confusing environment, being able to point to a well-thought out approach to online ethics would be a good start.

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3 Responses to “Attorney ethics challenges of Twitter”

  1. RJON ROBINS Says:

    Hi Randy,

    Thanks for shedding light on this subject. I think the “problem” is very much a case of too many lawyers with too much time on their hands because they don’t have enough business. So they make up problems that quite frankly, do not actually exist. As a Practice Management Advisor for The Florida Bar’s Law Office Management Assistance Service for several years I was a frequent CLE speaker on how to ethically and yet very effectively and profitably market a law firm. And I became quite familiar with the ethics rules of most State Bars. Bottom line across the board is that

    1.) It’s not solicitation if a prospective client contacts you to ask for information; and

    2.) The standard for whether or not an attorney-client relationship has been established is whether or not a “reasonable person” not a deranged lunatic in the client’s position would have cause to believe that an attorney client relationship has been established.

    Simply treat twitter the same way as you would a cocktail party where a person you’re chatting with learns we are lawyers and begins peppering us with legal questions. We’ve all been there and it’s pretty straight-forward. We make sure to slip it into the conversation that we’re not giving them “legal advice” and then if it sounds like they have a problem we can help them with we encourage them to contact our office to schedule a proper appointment. Why? Not because of some complicated bar rules someone is trying to use to scare you. But rather for the very practical reason that you can’t conduct a proper client intake procedure standing around at a cocktail party any more than you can in 140 characters or less.

    Twitter is a great way to market a law practice. So long as you don’t make it more complicated than it has to be.

    RJON

    “Because Happy Lawyers Make More Money”

    • Randy Wilson Says:

      Thank for the insights Rjon! As someone who worked for the FL bar, what do you think the likelihood of a bar association enforcing these rules? Unless there is an egregious issue with how an attorney is soliciting clients, does a state bar really have the resources to get involved?

      Randy

  2. Is a field in Entertainment Law ridiculous? | Go Info Data Directory Says:

    […] Attorney ethics challenges of Twitter « Reading Tea Leaves by … […]

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