Around the Blawgosphere: Va. Court Finds Lawyer Can Blog on Publicly Available Info About His Cases

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Law Blogger’s First Amendment Win

Corrected: In October, the Virginia State Bar ruled that Richmond, Va., lawyer Horace Hunter, who wrote about his own cases on his blog without his clients’ consent, needed to add a disclaimer on his website warning that results could vary in others’ cases. He also received a public admonition. Hunter appealed.

Earlier this month, a three-judge panel of the Portsmouth Circuit Court in Virginia upheld the determination that Hunter violated Rule 7.1 and Rule 7.2 regarding communication about a lawyer’s services and advertising by not having a disclaimer, but overturned the finding that he violated Rule 1.6, which governs confidentiality of client information with his blog posts. The panel found he had a First Amendment right to do so, Robert Ambrogi wrote at Robert Ambrogi’s Lawsites.

“The key to this decision is that the information the lawyer blogged about was publicly available information,” American Bar Association staff counsel Will Hornsby worte at The Boundaries of Legal Marketing. Hornsby also notes that Virginia’s Rule 1.6 standard varies from ABA’s Model Rule 1.6—and other states’ counterparts to this rule—which states that “a lawyer shall not reveal information relating to the representation of a client” without the client’s informed consent.

“Seemingly, ‘information relating to the representation’ is far broader than ‘secrets and confidences’ in the marketing arena,” Hornsby wrote. “So, folks should be cautious about giving weight to the Hunter outcome. It is quite possible, if not likely, the decision would have been different in a Model Rule state.”

In Defense of LinkedIn

Lawyer/consultant Jordan Furlong writes at Law Firm Web Strategy that after he heard last week’s report about millions of LinkedIn accounts being hacked, he logged in and changed his password. But he realized that was the first time he’d logged into his LinkedIn account in months, “and it might well be the last time for months to come. This is mostly because LinkedIn isn’t really a dynamic environment: unlike Twitter or Facebook, I rarely check in to see what’s new or to publish original content.”

So should a lawyer have a LinkedIn account? Furlong says yes, and lists 10 reasons. Among them:

1) “It’s my 24/7 globally available CV, showing off who I am and what I can do to potential clients or employers.”

4) “It’s a low-pressure way to ‘follow up’ an initial personal meeting and advance a relationship—an ‘applied business card.’ “

And, of course, it’s free, Furlong writes.

You Text the Truth

At The Jury Room, litigation consultant Rita Handrich noted a study from University of Michigan Institute for Social Research that research participants gave more honest answers when they responded by text rather than by phone or in person. Sample questions included: How often per week do you exercise?

Handrich notes that the Institute for Social Research is well-known and well-regarded, so “if your case involves damaging texts—this study might be used to demonstrate that we tend to tell the truth in texts more often than we do in person or over the phone. … It certainly means we need to be cognizant of the ability of text messages to be subpoenaed just like email and voicemail and electronic as well as traditionally written information.”

Updated June 15 to correct an assertion about Virginia’s Rule 1.6.

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