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MCLE Self-Assessment Test

Opinion: Self-promotion in blogging runs fine line of risk

By Amy Yarbrough
Staff Writer

Attorneys who enjoy blogging should be cautious not to run afoul of attorney advertising rules. That's the gist of a proposed State Bar opinion that's currently out for public comment.

Proposed Formal Opinion Interim No. 12-0006 looks at scenarios where blogging may be subject to the Rules of Professional Conduct governing lawyer advertising and related restrictions under the State Bar Act. Interested parties may submit comments on the proposed opinion until 5 p.m. on March 23.

Rule 1-400 of the Rules of Professional Conduct, which governs attorney advertising, prohibits, among other things, any solicitations by or behalf of an attorney that are threatening or harassing,  contain untrue statements or seek to mislead or deceive the public.

The proposed opinion by the bar’s Committee on Professional Responsibility and Conduct (COPRAC) states that blogging by an attorney is subject to rule 1-400 and other related rules if it explicitly or implicitly expresses an attorney's availability for employment or is part of an attorney's or a firm's professional website. The opinion notes that a standalone blog by an attorney that is not about the practice of law or discusses an attorney's availability for employment will not be subject to the rules merely because it contains a link to an attorney's or a firm's website.

David Cameron Carr, a San Diego-based ethics lawyer, said the opinion should be useful for new lawyers eager to use social media in their business, noting that it articulates a “bright line test.”

“I think it’s a valuable opinion,” he said. “I think it’s solid work by COPRAC to try and delineate, ‘Here's a test.’ ”

While noting that the proposed opinion is useful, another expert said it shouldn’t need to be a consideration if you’re taking the right approach to blogging.

Cheryl Bame of Bame Public Relations, which represents clients in the legal industry, wrote on her own blog that “good blogging practice should never include self-promotion.

“Blogs are for thought leadership. They demonstrate your expertise on a topic or industry and provide content that you can push out to other social media platforms and traditional media.” Bame wrote. “Self-promotional material will defeat the purpose of your blog and create clutter around what would otherwise be important reading for your audience.”

Comments on the proposed formal interim opinion may be directed to Angela Marlaud, the State Bar of California, 180 Howard St., San Francisco, CA 94105. They can also be submitted via email to