No More Excuses: Texas Bar Journal’s Social Media Primer Provides Much-Needed Nudge

In a conservative profession bound by strict codes of conduct concerning solicitation of business (aka advertising and marketing), it’s easy to avoid or postpone innovation.

That’s what makes the March issue of the Texas Bar Journal about social media so interesting, helpful — and slightly provocative. I say provocative in the sense that in an understated way, it almost dares the profession to find ways to apply new tools in the practice and business of law.

The whole issue is a keeper, but of particular interest to me is an instructive overview by Debra Bruce of how the Advertising Review Committee’s Interpretive Comments help clarify how the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct apply to social media. Bruce does an admirable job of balancing reassurances and cautions:

LinkedIn profiles – You probably don’t have to file for pre-approval with the Advertising Review Department as long as you’re not overtly soliciting business.

” Using social media to build and enhance relationships and to engage in discussions about topics of interest can be distinguished from advertisement or solicitation.”

And if you’re not sure, file your profile for pre-approval and you will be deemed compliant.

Blogs – They’re fine, as long as the content is editorial, informational, educational or entertaining, and not false, misleading or deceptive ( or a solicitation for business, of course).

“[Indeed,] blogs have become a useful form of communication for attorneys to get information out about subject matter or events relating to their area of practice.”

Videos – Just as with blogs, keep it informational, truthful and not promotional.

User-Generated Content – UGC — ratings, reviews and recommendations — is the hot spot of social marketing for consumer goods, but poses unique challenges for lawyers. While Texas allows the use of testimonials for lawyers, you’d be well-advised to screen LinkedIn recommendations before they get posted for public view.

“For example, Rule 7.02(4) prohibits comparisons to other lawyers’ services, unless substantiated by verifiable objective data. Therefore, if your client enthusiastically reports that you are “the best trial lawyer in town,” you will need to diplomatically as for a revision before publication.”

Bruce ends her article with a key insight and simple advice:

“In summary, some lawyers may be rusty in their recollection of the advertising and solicitation rules because they normally rely on traditional one-to-one networking for client development. As you venture into social media, it’s a good time to give a fresh read to Part VII of the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct to help you recognize novel issue you may not have encountered.”

In other words, have fun, but be careful.

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