Legal Ethics

Seeking Clients Via Facebook? In Ky., Bar May Regulate Social Media Comments

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Lawyers in Kentucky who reach out to potential clients through social media such as Facebook and MySpace may see their comments regulated by the Kentucky Bar Association.

The bar has proposed a regulation that would bar solicitations through social media unless lawyers pay a $75 filing fee and permit regulation by the bar’s Advertising Commission, the Louisville Courier-Journal reports. Some lawyers contacted by the newspaper criticized the proposal, saying it isn’t clear what kinds of comments would be regulated because of vague language.

Critics said the proposal could be interpreted to regulate posts about lawyers’ views on legal issues, their latest court wins, or basic information such as their employment and education. But Lexington lawyer Ben Cowgill told the Courier-Journal he disagreed with those interpretations.

“Does a lawyer engage in an ‘advertisement’ of legal services merely by posting on Facebook that he is happy about winning a big case, or that she is burning the midnight oil on behalf of a client? No, not in my opinion,” said Cowgill, the bar’s former chief disciplinary counsel.

The blog Kentucky Law Review posted the proposed amendment to the bar’s advertising rules, which authorize an advertising commission to review lawyer ads for compliance with the ethics rules.

The proposed amendment defines “advertisement” as any communication containing a lawyer’s name or other identifying information. It goes on to list some exceptions.

One exception is made for lawyer blogs that communicate in real time about legal issues, as long as there is no reference to an offer of legal services. “Communications made by a lawyer using a social media website such as MySpace and Facebook that are of a nonlegal nature are not considered advertisements,” the proposal says. “However, those that are of a legal nature are governed by [the advertising rules].”

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