NYCLA Releases Latest Opinion to Address Ethical Implications of Lawyers on LinkedIn

On March 10, 2015, the New York County Lawyers Association Professional Ethics Committee released Formal Opinion 748 addressing the ethical implications of attorney profiles on LinkedIn—a professional networking website. LinkedIn allows users to connect with other users, providing them access to their respective profiles and information that may otherwise be private depending on the individual user’s settings. LinkedIn also allows users to control the information displayed on their profile, which may be objective, such as educational background and work experience, as well as subjective, such as skills, recommendations, and endorsements.

Because of the various profile options and privacy settings available, confusion has arisen with respect to how attorneys should properly fill out and operate their LinkedIn accounts. As such, the committee chose to clarify three questions:

  1. Whether a LinkedIn profile is considered “Attorney Advertising”;
  2. When it is appropriate for an attorney to accept endorsements and recommendations; and
  3. Information attorneys should include (and exclude) from their LinkedIn profiles to ensure compliance with the New York Rules of Professional Conduct.

The committee determined that attorneys may maintain profiles on LinkedIn, “containing information such as education, work history, areas of practice, skills and recommendations written by other…users.” If, however, an attorney includes additional information, such as specific skills or endorsements, it may be considered Attorney Advertising and is therefore subject to the provisions in Rule 7.1. Moreover, according to Rule 7.4, attorneys may not list information about their “skills or practice areas” under headings labeled “Specialties,” but may otherwise list them under the headings “Skills” or “Endorsements.”

Furthermore, relying on Pennsylvania Formal Ethics Op. 2014-300, the committee noted that “attorneys must ensure that all information in their LinkedIn profiles is truthful and not misleading, including endorsements and recommendations by other LinkedIn users.” If the information is not accurate, it should be excluded from the attorney’s profile. Ultimately, New York lawyers should regularly monitor and review the content of their LinkedIn profiles to avoid potential ethical violations.

Click here to read more. Click here to read the full text of the opinion.

We previously reported on the NYCLA opinion in our post on attorney endorsements. To read that post click here.

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