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Can Lawyers Be Specialists on Linked-In? Rule 7.4 Strikes Again!

The New York State Bar Association Comittee on Professional Ethics handed down guidance on rule 7.4 and promoting a law firm on LinkedIn. What happened was that law firms were finding that under the profile section of the LinkedIn account, there was a section labeled “Specialties.” The question is: can a law firm list specialties such as “personal injury” or “car accidents” on their social media profile?

Short answer: No.

Long answer: No, but…

See, rule 7.4 says:

A lawyer or law firm may publicly identify one or more areas of law in which the lawyer or the law firm practices, or may state that the practice of the lawyer or law firm is limited to one or more areas of law, provided that the lawyer or law firm shall not state that the lawyer or law firm is a specialist or specializes in a particular field of law, except as provided in Rule 7.4(c).

And rule 7.4(c) says that such claims by lawyers are permissible if the certifying organization has been approved by the ABA, and the lawyer also prominently displays a disclaimer that said organization is not affiliated with a governmental authority and that certifications granted in other jurisdictions are not recognized by governmental authority in their state (in this case, New York.)

What does this mean for your LinkedIn profile?

A law firm may not list specialties. Further, a lawyer may list specialties if they are confident that the bar association will agree that the social media site satisfies the requirement of “prominently” making the required disclaimer. (It should be noted that “prominently” is as of yet undefined, so good luck with that.) What’s our advice?

Skip it. It’s not worth the potential headache from your bar association. You can still have an impressive and professional LinkedIn profile without listing areas of specialty.

If  your marketing team is unaware of these ethics issues, you may be in danger. Consider working with a team who knows the ethical advertising issues unique to lawyers.