Articles Posted in Legal Ethics

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NewMexicoCLE-300x156Recently, I had the privilege of serving on a panel at the American Bar Association’s Law Practice Division continuing legal education program on the ethics of virtual and multi-jurisdictional lawyering in Santa Fe, New Mexico. The program was co-sponsored by the State Bar of New Mexico, and took place on May 18, 2018 at the Inn and Spa at Loretto.

Moderated by Albuquerque-based practitioner Charles Gurd, panelists included fellow Philadelphia area attorney Dan Siegel, and Charity Anastasio, Associate Practice Management Advisor at the American Immigration Lawyers Association. It struck me that the audience interest, interaction and participation were greater than in the vast majority of CLEs that I teach. These two intertwining and overlapping issues—virtual law practices and multi-state jurisdictional issues—go hand in hand, and often create as many questions as answers.

When I’m driving down I-95 and leave New Jersey to cross into Delaware, I know it. When I then cross from Delaware into Maryland, I know it as well. I also know that if I’m caught speeding in Delaware, the only police I need to worry about are the ones with Delaware on the side panels. Of course, reciprocity when it comes to fines and points are sometimes blurry, but not nearly as confusing as crossing state lines in your law practice, typically on the Internet. However, as many of the CLE audience opined, most lawyers today have practices that are not confined to one or two states.

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ALI-300x108When ALI CLE asked me to present an ethics CLE on lawyer advertising, I hesitated. After all, I’ve been teaching this course across the country for more than 20 years. But the timing was right. There were hot-button issues sitting on my desk, and the equally red-hot debate over making the first substantial changes to the Rules of Professional Conduct related to law firm marketing since Bates v Arizona in 1977. So I said yes.

In the days leading up to my presentation (taped on March 23rd), there were articles in the local (Philadelphia) daily newspaper discussing geo-targeting billboards for Johnnie Cochran’s law firm (despite the fact that the famed OJ Simpson attorney passed away in 2005). There was U.S. District Judge Cynthia M. Rufe of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania dismissing the remaining (false advertising) claims in Larry Pitt’s lawsuit against competitor Lundy Law. I discussed earlier Pitt-Lundy battles in the 2013 version of my CLE. Yet they are both news items here in 2018. Social Media has been an integral part of my CLE since flashing up my MySpace profile in 2007. While I tout Facebook as being an integral part of marketing for many attorneys, the news was also covering just how our data was being used by the likes of Cambridge Analytica—that same market data we use to generate prospective clients was also being used for evil, and not good. The news was not fake, but apparently some of the Facebook users were. And, of course, there is the debate over proposed changes to the ABA model rules (for advertising and solicitation), scheduled to go before the House of Delegates this August during the ABA Annual Meeting in Chicago. So if that is just what is going on in my neck of the woods, and at the national level, you can imagine what else is out there.

If you are in need of an ethics credit for continuing legal education compliance and/or your law firm markets—this is a perfect use of one hour to catch up on the latest trends and discussions related to the always-prickly subject matter of appropriate (and inappropriate) lawyer advertising and solicitation.

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ABA Midyear Meeting, Vancouver, B.C., 2018

If you are attending the ABA Midyear Meeting in Vancouver the first weekend in February, reside in the B.C. area or simply are looking to escape to Canada (as so many U.S. citizens and non-citizens now are), be sure to attend this free CLE program, Fishing for Prospects – Ethical Limitations Can Create Muddy Waters in Catching New Clients on Saturday, February 3, 2018 from 2:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. PST at the Vancouver Marriott Pinnacle Downtown.

This ABA CLE, co-sponsored by the Law Practice Division and the Young Lawyers Division focuses on ethical strategies for business development and relationship building.  We will cover ethic rules and related pitfalls when soliciting new clients and advertising your practice. The Rules of Professional Conduct, various US Supreme Court cases and numerous state bar ethics opinions can create an often-unseen myriad of issues when soliciting new clients.

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Online legal referral and attorney rating service

For some attorneys—even 40+ years after Bates v. Arizona—marketing itself is a disruption. But when AVVO, the online legal referral and attorney rating service, came along in 2006, it created some of the more significant disruptions to the legal marketing industry. With the company being acquired by Internet Brands last week, the question is whether the business will remain cutting edge?

Of course, as is usually the case, the company touts that things will remain the same and be “business as usual” under new ownership. But that is rarely the case. I would argue that Martindale, Nolo and Total Attorneys—all businesses acquired by Internet Brands (makers of such sites as WebMD, Fodor’s Travel and MySummerCamps) no longer have the same impact they did before being acquired. When Findlaw was acquired by Thomson in 2001, it basically ceased being Findlaw (after the typical “business as usual” period of time). If you want to see the original premise of Findlaw today, you go to Justia. Martindale-Hubbell, founded in 1868 by attorney James Martindale (talk about being ahead of the curve on marketing! I always thought Greg Siskind was first with everything), was what most law firms considered the one piece of business development they would pay for. And pay for they did for over 100 years until the Internet killed the golden goose. When I first started visiting law firms to discuss marketing in 1996, I was often sent to see the librarian—because she updated the Martindale listings—that (plus perhaps the holiday card) was the extent of “marketing.”

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Pennsylvania Bar Institute

In order to get your ethics credit while attending my annual PBI marketing ethics program, you will need to watch me “live…on tape…from Philadelphia” (Larry Sanders Show reference) on December 19th in Pittsburgh or December 21st in Philadelphia. HOWEVER, if you’re interested in the subject matter, you are invited to attend the free live taping of that program (without the CLE credit; written materials will be provided via e-mail in PDF form), at The CLE Conference Center in the Wanamaker Building on Tuesday, November 28th from 10:30 am to 11:30 am.

If you are fascinated by the topic and enjoyed my recent ABA Law Practice Magazine column, Revisiting Lawyer Ratings and Rankings, you’ll learn a lot in this one hour program. Thank you to PBI for allowing me to extend an invite to the local lawyer and law marketing communities to attend the taping.

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Wall Street Journal

You have NO IDEA how much I nodded my head when picking up this morning’s Wall Street Journal and seeing reporter Sara Randazzo’s article on Time to Rank the Rankers of Lawyers? It has seemingly been a huge part of my work days over the past few weeks.

Unfortunately, you will have to wait by your mailbox for the November/December 2017 issue of the ABA’s Law Practice Magazine to see the marketing column I authored for it a few weeks back entitled Revisiting Lawyer Ratings and Rankings, which is a follow-up to my 2014 column, The Impact of the Three R’s: Ratings, Rankings and Reviews—which still draws e-mails and phone calls. In the column, I highlight past and present issues with an industry that is still burgeoning and remains largely unregulated (despite generally failed attempts by state bars and even the Better Business Bureau) to reign them in.

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If you arthird_circuite a Judge or attorney fascinated (or at least feeling like you need to know this stuff) by the world of social media, consider attending the 2017 Third Circuit Judicial Conference on April 19, 2017 at the Lancaster Marriott at Penn Square in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

I will be participating in “Twitter in the Court:  Social Media Issues for Judges, Lawyers” from 4 pm to 5:30 pm along with fellow panelists Cynthia L. Dahl, Director of Detkin Intellectual Property and        Technology Legal Clinic and a Practice Associate Professor, University of Pennsylvania Law School; and  Kathryn E. Deal, Partner, Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP. Our program is moderated by the Honorable Lawrence F. Stengel, United States District Judge, Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

The panel will cover a wide range of topics in the vast realm of social media, from a brief history and introduction to the major social media channels (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Snapchat) to the boatload of ethical issues that arise and the many ways social media has impacted matters in the courtroom.

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PBIIn the 15+ years where I’ve taught the marketing & advertising ethics CLE hour of Ethics Potpourri, this years’ program has elicited some of the most fascinating exchanges from the audience. I teach this hour live in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh every April, August and December. The coming weeks include the live presentation in Pittsburgh on August 25th and Philadelphia on August 30th. For directions and registration information, visit PBI. If you missed the program in April and can’t make August, the December dates will be here before you know it.

The deadly Amtrak train crash in Pennsylvania last May (2015) serves as the backdrop for a program that examines whether today’s ethics rules regarding solicitation and advertising are still effective in protecting victims and their families?  For an attorney who believes in the reasoning and philosophy of the Rules of Professional Conduct, does waiting out a 30 day moratorium on contact mean you’ve lost out on the lucrative race for clients? The program examines related court cases, ethics opinions and the RPC as they tie into various forms of business development for plaintiff’s attorneys that are seeking clients in a highly competitive marketplace. Some of the concepts might disgust you—but they are kosher. Some might remind you that today’s society, spurred on by a different news cycle, social media and a more cutthroat landscape means changing the way you do business, and get business.

The program flows from a column I wrote for the ABA’s Law Practice Magazine in late 2015, Content Marketing is Outpacing the Ethics Rules. That column also elicited many e-mails from colleagues on the somewhat controversial subject matter. As I witnessed the aftermath of the deadly crash at home in Philadelphia, I watched the way attorneys used newspaper articles, press conferences, e-mail, social media, press releases and other semi- or non-“advertising” means to promote themselves and position their law firms for prospective clients. It reminded me that so many of the ethics rule in place today to protect the client are simply outdated or ineffective. Judge for yourself.

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LPcover_JanFeb2016.jpgIn the January/February 2016 issue of the ABA’s Law Practice Magazine, I was asked to put on my ethics attorney hat in authoring Struggling with Ethics Issues Surrounding Branded Networks. Issue Editor Nick Gaffney asked me to write this sidebar in a magazine dedicated to the theme of branded legal networks–a huge topic of discussion in law practice management.

There is not a more controversial area of lawyer marketing when it comes to interpretation and enforcement of the Rules of Professional Conduct (RPC) than the issues that arise from the ever-growing legion of branded networks in the legal profession. From Avvo and Justia to Best Lawyers and a slew of entities that may or may not be “lead generation,” the issues, rules and opinions vary from state to state. They remain…consistently inconsistent. One thing is for sure, these companies are not going anywhere. The question is where they end up fitting in the long term approach to business development among attorneys.

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LPcover_novdec2015.jpgIt was watching and reading news coverage from the aftermath of the deadly Amtrak crash in Philadelphia earlier this year that my marketing column topic came to light. Usually the theme finds me, and in this case, with each press conference, e-mail, press release and newspaper article–it occurred to me that Content Marketing is Outpacing the Ethics Rules (ABA’s Law Practice magazine, November/December 2015).

You can put this column under “Marketing” or “Ethics.” It works out well for my areas of focus. I spend the bulk of my time working with law firms on business development efforts. But I also maintain a niche ethics practice that only looks at marketing and advertising issues. Perhaps you will read this column and think of it as an ethics primer. Or you might read it and gain ideas and insight into marketing for a plaintiff’s practice. Before submitting my final draft to the Law Practice editors, I decided that I needed some differing perspectives beyond my own. The result was some hefty editing based on those thoughts. You’ll read some comments from the ethics attorney I myself turn to for advice, Tom Spahn of McGuireWoods. Some differing views came from my fellow LP columnist, Greg Siskind, who was focused on the value of content. A few unnamed ethics friends gave me some additional feedback and direction.

A number of pieces from The Philadelphia Inquirer‘s law firm beat writer Chris Mondics touched on many aspects of what I reference in his coverage of the Amtrak disaster–and the issues surrounding “the race for clients.” The simple speed of selecting counsel in today’s society–ramped up through social media and related technology tools–means that an attorney seeking a piece of this very lucrative pie needs to get moving fast. You might argue that your marketing needs to arrive before the actual matter at hand. The most successful lawyers in this space have figured out how to generate promotional opportunities without violating the Rules of Professional Conduct. If you are waiting for the dust to settle–as the 30-day moratorium was built to provide–you will find yourself a day late to the game.