South Carolina State Bar Ethics Advisory Opinion 12-03

Ethics Advisory Committee

Topic: Lawyers’ participation in “Questions and Answers” websites is allowed with some precautions

In Ethics Advisory Opinion 12-03, the Ethics Advisory Committee opined whether lawyer may answer legal questions as an “expert” on a topical website for compensation where the website disclaims the attorney-client privilege and cautions users against reliance on the advice.

Summary of the Committee:

The website’s use of testimonials, endorsements, the word “expert,” and other misleading statements prohibit Lawyer’s participation. The site invites specific questions about specific legal matters and offers specific legal advice but uses buried small-type statements to attempt to disclaim the creation of attorney-client relationships and to warn against reliance on the advice. The Committee believes Lawyer’s participation under these circumstances would be improper.

As to legal information websites in general, if a website complies with all communications and advertising rules, Lawyer could participate in such a program but with but with specific caution against inadvertently forming an attorney-client relationship by offering more than basic information of general applicability. Where legal advice is provided, it is improper for Lawyer to accept compensation from the website provider without complying with Rule 1.8(f).”


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