California Interim Opinion Provides Guidelines For Attorney Bloggers

Lawyers who maintain non-legal blogs may preemptively celebrate that their recipe and music blogs would not be considered “communications” subject to California’s attorney advertising rule 1-400 even if they link to their professional law firm pages according to The State Bar of California’s second Proposed Formal Opinion Interim. Still, the generous opinion draws limits, as “extensive” or “detailed” information that identifies the blogger as an attorney and announces his availability for professional hire will trigger the rules, as such information is a communication in itself.

Unsurprisingly, a blog that is built into the lawyer’s or law firm’s professional website is as much subject to the advertising rules as is the firm’s website. However, an attorney’s individual blog, even if it discusses legal topics is not a communication for purposes of the advertising rules unless it implies that the attorney is available for legal employment. This implicit hint can be as subtle as describing the legal services or detailing case results.

Overall, this second proposal focuses on the importance of First Amendment protection to avoid chilling speech on legal commentary, even though the California Bar committee acknowledges that these blogs are motivated at least in part by business development concerns. By interpreting blogs as non-commercial speech where appropriate, the opinion hopes to serve as guidance rather than a strict conversation-chiller.

Read the new opinion here.

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