So, What About LinkedIn Endorsements? LinkedIn & The Attorney Advertising Rules

LinkedIn Endorsements are one of the many attractive features of the professional networking website that have left the population of attorney-LinkedIn users befuddled as to whether they are ethically permitted to engage in such LinkedIn etiquette. After all, if an attorney maintaining a LinkedIn account gets a notification that a distant acquaintance (who, in LinkedIn-land is nonetheless called a “connection”) has endorsed him for an area of law in which he has no actual experience, then has that attorney necessarily done anything wrong? In other words, by doing nothing or failing to act on another LinkedIn user’s conduct, has the lawyer nevertheless acted falsely, misleadingly, or deceptively, and therefore, unethically?

For quite some time, there has been no definitive answer; however, within the last year, there have been two ethics guidelines—specifically, the New York State Bar Association’s “Social Media Ethics Guidelines” and the Pennsylvania Bar Association’s advisory opinion entitled, “Ethical Obligations for Attorneys Using Social Media”— that have touched on this ethical dilemma and proposed solutions. Both guidelines discussed the concept of “control” and explained that where an attorney has control over content on a social media website, he has a duty to monitor his account, verify the accuracy of any information posted, and remove or correct any inaccurate endorsements.

But on March 10, 2015, in Formal Opinion 748, the Professional Ethics Committee of the New York County Lawyers Association tackled the issue head-on, leaving little room for continued confusion. Moreover, the Committee deemed LinkedIn to be subject to the attorney advertising rules unless an attorney is only listing her education and work background.

The Committee came to the following stern conclusion about LinkedIn: attorneys are responsible for periodically monitoring the content of their LinkedIn pages at reasonable intervals and endorsements must be truthful, not misleading, and based on actual knowledge.

The opinion specifically addresses the question of what an attorney is to do when he receives an inaccurate endorsement or recommendation from a distant acquaintance—he is to remove the endorsement from his profile within a reasonable period of time once he becomes aware of the inaccurate posting. Where the variables are slightly different, such that it is instead a colleague or former client sending an accurate endorsement of the lawyer’s actual experience or area of practice, the endorsement is not considered misleading so it is therefore ethically permissible as long as it is otherwise in compliance with the advertising rules, which may require disclaimer language.

To read the opinion click here.

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