June 2017 Notes: Big Changes for Lawyer Ad Rules?

Are the Bar Ad Rules Finally Changing? One of the little-understood impediments to consumer access to legal services is the way lawyers are regulated. From our monopoly on “the practice of law,” to our antiquated jurisdictional limits and advertising rules, lawyers labor under a regulatory burden with few equals. And while there are some good reasons for “lawyer exceptionalism” – the protection of clients chief among them – too often our over-regulatory impulses get the better of us. But there are signs of hope. The ABA has gotten serious about looking at streamlining the Model Rules on attorney advertising. And, not content to wait, the Virginia State Bar recently adopted changes very similar to those under consideration at the ABA. That’s a very good thing. The legacy ad regs make it harder than it should be for lawyers to inform the public. Here’s hoping that these signs of thaw turn into a torrent of changes to every state’s rules.

 Don’t Sue Over Opinions. There are many sayings about opinions, few of them flattering. We all have opinions, and most of us – if we’re being honest – would admit that we don’t like hearing opinions that we consider wrong. And this can really drive us off the deep end when those opinions are expressed online. Case in point: this real estate lawyer vexed that Zillow’s “zestimate” has made it difficult to sell her home. But what this lawyer (and too many others like her) fails to grasp is that there’s no legal duty to publish “right” opinions. In fact, it’s fine (legally, at least) to publish opinions that are completely, utterly unfounded. This principle offers important protection of the “breathing room” necessary for the fulsome expression of ideas. Keep that in mind the next time someone talks about suing over a hyperbolic online review.

 Blogging Makes You a Better Speaker.  I’ve been blogging for something like 13 years now, but it’s always something I’ve done for myself. I find it makes me more thoughtful – and a better lawyer – when I have to articulate and defend my ideas in written form. Now Kevin O’Keefe points out another benefit of blogging: the positive impact on public speaking performance. This resonated with me, because I’ve certainly experienced it. By having written so much about professional ethics and the First Amendment, I have a huge number of topics I can explore. And even more importantly, the breadth and depth of my writing allows me to improvise and answer questions on these topics quite fluidly. If you’re looking to step up your speaking game, blogging regularly may be just the ticket.

Social Media News and Notes:

More shade thrown at live-tweeting: judges in Bill Cosby case will have none of it.

Hey, someone went and built free plugins to publish your Avvo rating and reviews right on your WordPress website!

Interesting new “Pagefreezer” product captures court-admissible versions of social media evidence.

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