When Is “Blogging” By a Lawyer Subject to the Rules of Professional Conduct?

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Under what circumstances is “blogging” by a lawyer subject to the requirements and restrictions of the Louisiana Rules of Professional Conduct? A recent formal opinion by the California State Bar Standing Committee on Professional Responsibility and Conduct addressed this issue. See State Bar of California, Formal Opinion Interim No. 12-0006. A “blog” is “a website containing a writer’s own experiences, observations, or opinions, often with images and links to other websites.” See Dictionary.com. As blogging becomes more common, it is important for lawyers to recognize their professional responsibilities related to this activity. While most lawyer blogs are created to enhance the authoring lawyer’s professional reputation and visibility, not all are subject to the Rules of Professional Conduct according to the California formal opinion:

Attorney blogs are subject to the requirements and restrictions of [the Rules of Professional Conduct] if the blog expresses the attorney’s availability for professional employment directly through words of invitation or offer to provide legal services, or implicitly through a description of the attorney’s legal practices and successes in such a manner that the attorney’s availability for professional employment is evident. A blog that is a part of an attorney’s or law firm’s professional website is subject to the rules regulating attorney advertising to the same extent as the website of which it is a part. A non-legal blog by an attorney is not necessarily subject to the rules or statutes regulating attorney advertising because it includes a hyperlink to the attorney’s professional web page.

A Louisiana lawyer who uses a blog to offer the lawyer’s services or as a component of a firm website is subject to Louisiana Rule 7.6 regarding computer-accessed communications. Computer-accessed communications include “information regarding a lawyer’s or law firm’s services that is read, viewed, or heard directly through the use of a computer.” Under this rule, web pages and blogs promoting legal services: (1) must disclose all jurisdictions in which the lawyer or members of the law firm are licensed to practice law; (2) must disclose one or more bona fide office locations or, in the absence of a bona fide office, the city or town of the lawyer’s primary registration statement address; and (3) are considered to be information provided upon request and, therefore, are otherwise governed by the requirements of Louisiana Rule 7.9.