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How Lawyers Can Act Ethically When it Comes to Social Media

Although most attorneys realize the law is a noble profession, there have always been those who compromise its integrity – sometimes capitalizing on or misleading others in times of misfortune. Legal ethics rules provide some guidance on how lawyers practice or market their services. However, new forms of communication and social media present evolving ethical challenges.  Limitations on traditional avenues of marketing are well-understood, such as that “cold” letters (sent to persons with whom the lawyer has no prior acquaintance) must be clearly labeled as advertising material on both the letter and the envelope. As Cort Sylvester, a shareholder in Nilan Johnson Lewis’ product liability/mass tort group, explains, lawyers must now translate longstanding rules to new modes of communication. “Bar associations are deciding if a connection or contact through a particular social media platform is similar to traditional unsolicited letters or cold calling, requiring a disclaimer,” says Sylvester. He advises attorneys to understand the concepts behind the ethics rules governing traditional marketing methods since those can be applied to social media in the same or similar ways. When lawyers choose to market themselves via social media channels, a polite introduction highlighting a relevant personal link to the recipient can help ensure they are ethically inbounds. To speak with Cort Sylvester about ethical social media marketing for legal services, contact him at or 612.305.7526.

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