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Before You Blog, Check Your State's Attorney Advertising Rules

By Robyn Hagan Cain | Last updated on

Whether lawyers blog as a marketing tactic or for personal satisfaction, law blogging is pretty popular.

But blogging can cause problems for an attorney who doesn't carefully adhere to his state's professional conduct guidelines on his blog.

For example, Horace Hunter, an attorney with the Richmond law firm Hunter & Lipton, PC, has a blog called This Week in Richmond Criminal Defense, which is accessible through his law firm's website. The blog contains posts discussing various legal issues and cases, and the overwhelming majority are posts about cases in which Hunter obtained favorable results for his clients.

As Point of Law recently explained, Hunter's blog was notable for the elements it included (client's actual names) and the elements it lacked (attorney advertising and "results may vary" disclosures).

In February, the Virginia Supreme Court addressed whether Hunter's blog posts qualify as commercial speech, and whether an attorney may discuss public information related to a client without the client's consent. The court concluded that the Virginia State Bar can regulate blog posts as commercial speech, but that an attorney may discuss public information regarding a client on his blog. In support of the latter conclusion, the court wrote:

To the extent that the information is aired in a public forum, privacy considerations must yield to First Amendment protections. In that respect, a lawyer is no more prohibited than any other citizen from reporting what transpired in the courtroom.

Before you start blogging about your legal practice, you should check with your state bar to see if there are any specific rules you need to follow. When it comes to compliance with professional responsibilities, it's better to ask than to find yourself defending an honest mistake to state bar.

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