August 4, 2015
The prevalence of social media has transformed marketing and advertising practices in the legal world. Many attorneys find themselves in uncharted territory, trying to navigate the established rules of attorney ethics and professional responsibility with the modern methods of social media. With the pervasiveness of social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and LinkedIn, attorneys can reach wider audiences than ever before by posting a simple message online and reaching the masses. This prevailing method of attorney advertising and marketing pushes the bounds of traditional, established ethics rules and, at times, requires interpretation.
Attorney ethics in California is primarily governed by the Rules of Professional Conduct of the State Bar of California and the State Bar Act (Business and Professions Code §§ 6000 et seq.) Even though these established rules of professional conduct do not specifically mention the use of electronic mediums to convey advertisements on behalf of attorneys, they attempt to regulate such methods by generalization. Specifically, the Rules of Professional Conduct attempt to regulate the message that is being conveyed to the general public or to the potential client, rather than the specific medium or channel utilized by the attorney.