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William B. Eadie Esq. | Mar 5, 2014

ABA Commission Releases Proposed Attorney Marketing Rules

On June 29, 2011, the American Bar Association Commission on Ethics 20-20 group released its proposed rule changes in light of the the fact that electronic technologiesnow allow for very different communications between attorneys and the public. (UPDATE: a revised version was published on September 19, 2011. Both versions are posted below. Access the ABA front page of the ABA Commission on Ethics.)

Attorney marketing through new technology raises concerns such as when an attorney relationship is created, what additional restrictions, if any, should be imposed on attorney website communications, and multi-district practice of law in (worldwide) internet forums.

The proposal followed the release of a whitepaper in 2010, and request for comments from practicing attorneys.

The proposed draft is available, below. Notably, there are no major additional restrictions proposed. Rather, the release seeks to clarify how the traditional rules might apply to these new media.

I would suggest that this is the right approach. The current ethics rules are guidelines for how to behave, not specific to the method of communication. While I think it is a close call when it comes to "real time" communications with clients--consider the difference, if any, between real-time chat and replying back and forth on a blog post comments thread--the better approach is to do as the ABA commission did: attempt to update the language and comments to broaden the application to include new technology. Whether other states follow suit is to be determined.

What are your thoughts on whether attorney marekting through new technologies require new guidelines for dealing with the public? Are we talking about safegaurds, or treating the internet-surfing public as naive? Has anything really changed at all?

Please comment below!

Resources:

ABA Commission on Ethics 20-20 Technology and Advertising Initial Proposal 6-29-2011.pdf

ABA Commission on Ethics 20-20 Technology and Client Development 9-19-2011.pdf