Skip to navigation

Thursday, May 30, 2002

Let's Try And Keep Up, Shall We?

I suppose when the same thing comes at you on the same day from two different places, you have to blog it. Chuck Hartley writes about Formal Opinion No. 2001-155 of the Standing Committee on Professional Responsibility and Conduct of the State Bar of California (fondly known as COPRAC), and how it fails to address what an attorney-maintained site that incorporates "live video interactivity, a bulletin board, links to other law-related web sites, or news group functions" - or one or more weblogs, for that matter - must or must not do in order to comply with applicable standards of professional responsibility and conduct. Jon Amberg and John Rewinsky also discuss the opinion in this month's Los Angeles Lawyer, and remark how use of the Web raises ethical issues for lawyers. This begs the question: what's a "blawger" to do? According to the opinion, a California attorney's site that contains information for the public about her "availability for employment" is a "communication" and an "advertisement" subject to some rather onerous record-keeping and content requirements. Copies of every page of every version and revision of the site must be kept for two years. False or misleading statements are right out. Moreover, since a Web site - by definition - is viewable in other jurisdictions, the attorney Web publisher has to worry about being accused of the "unauthorized practice of law" in places far from home. The California rules and ethics opinions do not seem to address whether different standards should apply to personal attorney sites versus commercial ones, and the same appears true of the ABA model rules. (Other sources? Let me know.) Thus do California lawyers find themselves on the horns of a Cluetrain-y, Gonzoid, Loosely Joined dilemma. Weblogs, if used on a commercial site - and used right - will make it more "personal." "Personal" sites likewise become more "professional" when one writes about - among other things - one's profession. There already is a good deal of crossover between this blog and my firm's site - some of the "Keeping Current" material there will look familiar if you've been checking in here. Should the two be treated differently from a professional responsibility standpoint? I'm inclined to say "yes," but I don't necessarily like where that goes - it assumes the firm site must be all about Making You Its Client, and this site must be all about things like Indy cars and Star Trek. The reality should be recognized as lying somewhere in between. That way, the law firm need not quiet the voices of its constituent members, and I need not ignore my lawyerdom here. There goes the Web again, introducing gray areas and blurring distinctions. It's hard to predict what the ethicists will do when they confront whether the burdens on individual record-keeping and speech should be increased, or the ones on a law office should be lessened, when both actually may be doing similar things on the Web.

Creative Commons LicenseUnless otherwise expressly stated, all original material of whatever nature created by Denise M. Howell and included in the Bag and Baggage weblog and any related pages, including the weblog's archives, is licensed under a Creative Commons License.