Wednesday, April 18, 2012


The following article / blog / editorial was NOT written by me, but was located by me on a "cached" internet site. It addresses an issue I have been concerned with, and to avoid the risk it may disappear from the internet, I am reposting it here:

Are ghostwritten lawyer blogs unethical? : Real Lawyers Have Blogs

Hits: Post by Error on 11/Jan 2012

AD postion 3 The ghostwriting of blogs is apparently becoming the rage for attorneys and law firms.
A law firm who our client development team spoke with yesterday afternoon knowing that LexBlog doesnt author lawyers blogs asked if we had a recommendation for someone who could do so.
A lawyer with the firm said a Marketing Person told them the firm needed a Facebook page, a Google+ page, a Twitter account, and a blog. The Marketing Person said they could hire a bunch of college students who would write the blog posts and post to the other social media media on a regular basis - in some cases, multiple times a day.
Put aside the ghostwriting of law blogs being shortsighted (you dont farm out networking, relationship building, and the demonstration of your expertise), theres a question whether it is ethical for an attorney to have someone else blog for the lawyer or their law firm.
Lawyer Advertising is governed by each state, whether by the states supreme court or bar association. is typical of states restrictions on Lawyer Advertising.
Is an attorneys failure to disclose that their blog posts are written by someone other than the attorney or law firm misleading? Is doing so omitting a fact (that you did not author the blog posts) so as to make what you are doing as a whole materially misleading?
I think a real case can be made that it is misleading and unethical.
When the question of was raised by the Aba Journal a couple years ago, Attorney , VP, Business Development & General Counsel for Avvo, Inc. said "Ghost blogs are unethical if there’s no disclosure."
Some lawyers argued that much of the work product law firms do is written by one lawyer, while attribution is given to a more senior lawyer. To which King responded:
Attorney Advertising is subject to Rules of Professional Conduct, the most critical of which is that marketing communications can’t be deceptive.
Passing off someone else’s writing and ideas as one’s own, in a marketing vehicle designed to showcase an attorney’s engagement with and competence in a given area, is deceptive.
King was not along in his belief that ghost written blogs are unethical.
Some deception is countenanced in most areas of commerce (advertising often involves deception), but lawyers have ethical duties that nobody else has.
Using a ghostblogger may not be illegal (that is, violative of rules carrying official sanctions) but it’s unethical.
From well respected Miami Criminal and Bar Grievance/Admission Attorney, :
No question the public can feel mislead by a ghostwritten blog. This from a consumer of legal services who responded to the Aba Journals question:
Plagiarism, as defined in the 1995 Random House Compact Unabridged Dictionary, is the “use or close imitation of the language and thoughts of another author and the representation of them as one’s own original work. ..
Thomson Reuters FindLaw apparently knows ghostwritten lawyer blogs are unethical. As I shared yesterday , paraphrasing news reports and legal updates, to law firms.
Rather than listing a lawyer or law firms name as the author of a blog post, FindLaw says the post is On behalf of the name of the lawyer or firm.
Some law firms will list the author of their blog posts as the law firm. I dont see anything misleading there, no matter who at the firm writes the blog posts. The blog posts may not be as effective for business development as blogs citing the individual attorney author, but it doesnt look like an ethics issue.
In the long run, attorneys and law firms are going to benefit little, if any, from ghostwritten blogs. The vast majority of ghostwritten blogs paraphrase news and legal developments reported elsewhere.
Many of these ghostwritten blogs are going to damage the reputation of the attorney and firm. The exact audience youre looking to reach - reporters, clients, prospective clients, and other bloggers who cite and share your offerings - will be turned off by such blogs that offer no value.
Bottom line, youre skating on thin ice from an ethical standpoint when it comes to ghostwritten law blogs. Ive seen attorneys run before their state supreme court or bar association on ethics complaints with less basis.
And in addition to other types of ethics complaints, this would be one that would draw a ton of publicity on and offline. Nothing gets more sensationalized when it comes to legal news today than lawyers and social media.You may also discuss on the and on .


1 comment:

  1. There is definitely a growing problem with attorneys using black hat SEO tactics, even inadvertently. The truth is, there are plenty of sources for reputable marketing for law firms, but a lot of legal professionals just getting into online marketing can't distinguish them from the rest. Thank you for sharing this insightful post.