States Define Law Blogs As Advertising

    September 15, 2006
    WebProNews Staff

Another indication that the law is struggling to keep up with technology in a useful way, proposed restrictions in New York could prevent lawyers from setting blogs about law.

Greg Beck, who runs a legal blog called Consumer Law and Policy Blog reports the new restrictions would regard any public communication by a lawyer about a lawyer as advertisements. Therefore they must follow legal advertising rules.

The rules require phrases like “Attorney Advertising” to appear on the blog and for a hard copy of each post (and subsequent changes, which would include comments) to be put on file for a year and sent to the state.

But Beck points out that the new rules contain a definition of advertising so broad that websites, IMs, and emails could even be considered as public communication.

“State courts and bar associations for decades have used attorney codes of ethics to restrict competition by limiting the kinds of truthful information that lawyers can communicate to potential clients,” writes Beck. “But, although the Supreme Court has repeatedly struck down similar rules as unconstitutional, states don’t seem to be getting the message.”

It wasn’t too long ago that Kentucky regulators looked to define a lawyer’s weblog as an advertisement, a move that would require a filing fee of $50 for each advertisement and each change in the advertisement.

David Giacalone agrees that calling a blog an advertisement takes it too far:

Calling weblogs advertising can only confuse the meaning of both terms. As viewed by Craig in his post, I believe weblogs should more precisely be deemed publicity, or self-promotion, or public relations. They are not “advertising” as the term is commonly used, and I can see nothing to gain from blurring the concepts. We don’t want to have to explain “Well, Ms. Bar Counsel, my weblog is advertising according to MIPTC, but it’s not advertising advertising.”

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