In Formal Opinion 2016-196, the California State Bar Ethics Committee dealt with the question of when a blog by a lawyer is subject to the ethics rules on advertising. If a blog is integrated into a lawyer’s website, it will be treated as advertising. A separate blog or blog post may or may not be advertising depending on whether it “specifically invites the reader to retain the attorney’s services or otherwise indicates the attorney’s availability for professional employment.” The opinion provides examples covering the spectrum of possible blogs. An important point in the opinion is that a reference to the attorney’s professional webpage along with contact information will not necessarily make the blog or post advertising: “Neither a link from the by-line to the attorney author’s professional page nor the inclusion of contact information will itself serve to transform a blog on any topic, legal or non-legal, into advertising.” According to the opinion, a listing of a lawyer’s cases and outcomes may be informational but a reference to “wins” is presumptively misleading. However, it is questionable whether other jurisdictions would agree that reference to an attorney’s cases is only informational. Prudent lawyers seeking to avoid having their separate blogs or blog posts treated as advertising would steer clear of such references.
For more information, Nathan M. Crystal