I’m an attorney. I have a blog. What do I write about? Whatever I feel like writing about. Sometimes I write about cats. Sometimes I write about cheesesteaks. Sometimes I write about law stuff. I don’t wake up in the morning and say “I should write an article about such and such topic because it will generate more clients.”
Do I get clients from writing this blog? Indirectly. I get very few calls that go like this:
“Hey, I read that post about cheesesteaks on Philly Law Blog.”
“Oh yeah? Did you like it?”
“Yeah, it was great! By the way, my son got sick from a cheesesteak and we need someone to represent us. Clearly, you are a cheesesteak lawyer and an expert in your field. I also hear you like cats. Can you help us?”
I do get calls that go like this:
“Hey, my name is Mike Smith. You don’t know me. I practice in Center City and do securities litigation. I’m a big fan of your blog. I have this smaller case that my firm can’t take on. Can I get a few minutes of your time to see if you’d be able to take it?”
This blog is a hobby, like Crossfit. Just like any hobby, sometimes it results in a call or a client. But that’s not the aim of the blog. I just have the need to sit at a typewriter and bleed sometimes.
On the other hand, my buddy Adam Green, a personal injury and securities lawyer, also writes a blog. It’s called “Broker Misconduct.” What does he write about? Happenings in the FINRA and broker world. If you’re the victim of broker misconduct, you would probably read Adam’s blog and (rightfully so) say “This guy knows the FINRA world inside and out. I should definitely give him a call about my problem.” Is that a bad thing? I don’t think so. If I needed a FINRA lawyer, I would hire Adam. He uses his blog to educate potential clients about what’s going on in that world. Now they know who to hire.
With that said, any moron in a hurry can tell the difference between an attorney who has a blog, and an attorney using a blog for marketing purposes.
If it walks like a duck and quacks, it’s a duck.
So of course, the California State Bar Association has actually come up with a balancing test. Because apparently they believe that anyone without a law degree is too stupid to differentiate attorneys who use blogs for fun, from attorneys who use them for advertising.
Here is what I want to know. Can the California State Bar cite to any instances where a potential client was somehow confused or mislead by whether a blog was attorney advertising or simply a blog post? Has this conversation ever happened?
“Hello, is this the California Bar Association?”
“I would like to make a complaint!”
“Sure. What’s the problem?”
“Well, I read this blog called Philly Law Blog. It had legal stuff on it. Well sort of. It also hat cats and cheesesteaks on it. So I was super confused whether Mr. Rushie was trying to get me to hire him, or whether he just felt like writing something. I was so scared.”
What exactly is their concern here?
This is the real problem. I used Adam’s blog as an example. Adam is a very experienced FINRA and broker misconduct lawyer. Adam writes his own blog posts.
However, I think it would be unethical for an attorney to say “Hey! I want to be a personal injury attorney! I have no idea about how personal injury works or how to get clients, so I’ll just hire a law student to write lots of blog posts about personal injury stuff! I’ll get lots of clients and hopefully won’t mess up their cases!”
I could see a call going down like this:
“Hi, I would like to lodge a call with the bar association. This guy has this blog and made it out like he is some type of big time criminal defense attorney, and it turns out he has no idea what he’s doing. He messed up the case, and my son ended up doing 10 years in prison because of it.”
That’s a problem. A common problem.
I could also see it being a problem if an attorney put a bunch of stupid on the internet to get business, and a potential client relied on it.
“I didn’t file suit within the statute of limitations because attorney Jones’s blog said I had four years!”
“Oh, we made a mistake. Some law student wrote that blog post.”
That could also be a problem. People relying on blog posts for legal advice because they were purportedly made by someone who is (or should be) an authority on a topic.
What the bar really should be concerned about is attorneys misrepresenting their experience, outsourcing their ethics, and soliciting potential clients in practice areas they are not competent to handle. Consumers are smart enough to differentiate advertising from blogging. What they may not be savvy enough to figure out is how to vet the lawyer they ultimately decide to hire, or that just because a lawyer says something on the internet doesn’t mean it’s advice they can rely on.
Because don’t forget what Scott Greenfield always says…