On March 10, 2015, the New York County Lawyers Association (“NYCLA”) weighed in on the ethics of using the social media website “LinkedIn” for professional self-promotion by lawyers.

Formal Opinion 748 addresses the ethical implications of LinkedIn profiles. Specifically, the opinion addresses (1) whether a LinkedIn Profile is considered “Attorney Advertising,” (2) when it is appropriate for an attorney to accept endorsements and recommendations, and (3) what information attorneys should include (and exclude) from their LinkedIn profiles to ensure compliance with New York’s ethics rules.

In addressing whether a LinkedIn Profile is considered “Attorney Advertising,” NYCLA concluded that a LinkedIn profile containing only the user’s education and a list of the user’s current and past employment does not constitute attorney advertising. However, if additional information is included in a user’s LinkedIn profile, such as a detailed description of practice areas and work done in prior employment, the LinkedIn profile would be considered advertising, subject to the ethical rules governing “Attorney Advertising.  Those rules provide that advertisements must be labeled “Attorney Advertising” on the first page, or on the home page in the case of a website, and that  the advertisement must include the following disclaimer: “prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome.”

With regard to endorsements and recommendations, NYCLA concluded that attorneys are responsible for periodically monitoring the content of their LinkedIn pages at reasonable intervals to insure that endorsements and recommendations are truthful, not misleading, and based on actual knowledge. The opinion gives the following example: if a distant acquaintance endorses a matrimonial lawyer for international transactional law, and the attorney has no actual experience in that area, the attorney should remove the endorsement from his or her profile within a reasonable period of time, once the attorney becomes aware of the inaccurate posting. The ethics opinion also provides that lawyers may list skills or practice areas under LinkedIn’s predefined headings “Experience” or “Skills” without violating New York’s ethics rules, as long as that the word “specialist” is not used.

Formal Opinion 748 warns that attorneys should “monitor their LinkedIn pages at reasonable intervals” to ensure that the profiles on LinkedIn comply with the State’s ethics rules. Although neither daily nor weekly monitoring seems to be required, it remains unclear what constitutes a “reasonable interval.”

The ethics opinion is annexed here –

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