The Florida Bar’s Standing Committee on Advertising met today to address the issue of what Florida lawyers can and cannot do on LinkedIn. (The official action of the Standing Committee on Advertising appears below.) The impetus for the meeting was the staff opinion holding that Florida lawyers cannot list areas of practice under the “Skills & Expertise” Section of LinkedIn unless they are Board Certified (or the equivalent). However, the committee determined that there were other potential ethical issues raised by LinkedIn.
During today’s meeting, the committee decided that rather than addressing these issues on an ad hoc basis, they would request authority to provide an advisory opinion on LinkedIn to the Board of Governors for consideration and approval. The committee’s request will be voted on by the BOG at its December meeting. If the request is approved, the committee will then draft its advisory opinion. The advisory process will seek input from members of the bar, and the final opinion will not be issued until sometime in 2014.
My source on the committee underscored the fact the staff opinion which launched this discussion is binding only on the law firm that sought it, and does not apply to other members of the Bar. That being said, there will likely be changes coming in 2014 regarding how Florida lawyers may utilize LinkedIn. Stay tuned!
The Standing Committee on Advertising met today regarding an appeal of a staff opinion on a specific advertising file where a law firm filed portions of its LinkedIn profile. The committee took the following actions:
The Standing Committee voted 3-1 to affirm the staff opinion that the firm may not list areas of practice under the header “specialties” even though the word “specialties” is chosen by LinkedIn and cannot be modified by the firm because the firm controls whether the firm adds areas under the listing, a law firm cannot be certified, and the areas listed are not areas of certification under Rule 4-7.14(a)(4) and 6-3.4(c).
The Standing Committee voted 4-0 to reverse the staff opinion that a listing under “Top Skills and Expertise” of wrongful death, personal injury litigation, medical malpractice, automobile accidents, product liability (together with a numeric indicator) violates Rule 4-7.14(a)(4), because the firm states that the information is posted solely by LinkedIn and the firm has no control over the posting.
The Standing Committee voted 4-0 to reverse the staff opinion that a posting of a former firm employee requires the area of certification when indicating board certification under Rule 4-7.14(a)(4) because the firm states that LinkedIn is solely responsible for the appearance of the posting of part of a former firm employee’s profile on the firm’s LinkedIn page and the firm has no control over the posting and cannot modify it.
The committee also voted to contact LinkedIn to inform LinkedIn of the problem created for Florida Bar members by LinkedIn choosing the terms “specialties” and “expertise” in parts of LinkedIn profiles without the entity having the ability to modify those terms, in light of Rule Regulating The Florida Bar 4-7.14(a)(4), and to request that LinkedIn change its method of operation to permit modification of those terms by individual entities when creating their profiles.
The committee also voted 4-0 to request that the Board of Governors direct the committee to issue a formal advisory opinion on LinkedIn, including the “specialties” header, the endorsements feature that shows endorsements for “skills and expertise.”
If the Board of Governors approves the committee’s request to adopt a formal advisory opinion, a notice will be published in the bar News inviting comments by members of The Florida Bar in good standing in accordance with the Florida Bar Procedures for Issuing Advisory Opinions Relating to Lawyer Advertising or Solicitation.
For additional analysis on the committee’s action, click here to visit Joe Corsmeier’s blog.