New Florida Bar Advertising Rules Vex Lawyers
Orlando attorney Luis Gonzalez has no intention of following The Florida Bar's new social media rules, particularly those relating to LinkedIn.
"Let's get a little better priorities," said Gonzalez, a solo attorney who has been practicing for 36 years. "There's a lot of unlawful practice of law going on out there. I get these cases referred when it's too late. The Bar should be more involved in that and forget about this absurdity."
Gonzalez is not the only attorney who has issues with The Bar's new social media rules, considered the most stringent in the country by many law firms.
The rules are part of The Bar's latest overhaul of attorney advertising rules, which were approved by the Florida Supreme Court in May. While rules for billboards, television and radio commercials and publications have garnered the most attention, rules about how attorneys can use Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn are now coming to light — and generating controversy among lawyers.
The Bar defends the social media rules, saying lawyers must comply with ethical guidelines whether their advertising is on Facebook, billboards or TV. The guidelines warn attorneys to refrain from testimonials, holding themselves out as experts and posting inappropriate and unprofessional photos or videos on Facebook.
Lawyers and law firms are expressing frustration with the new social media restrictions, saying they are difficult to interpret and overly stringent. Of particular concern are rules requiring law firms to state an office location on each tweet and barring lawyers from allowing third-party endorsements or listing their expertise on LinkedIn.
"We encourage our clients to use social media. We think it's a useful component of any public relations firm," said Jennifer Clarin of Boardroom Communications, which handles public relations for several South Florida law firms. "But because of the restrictions The Florida Bar has placed on social media, clients now have to rethink their social media strategy. This is such a broad stroke they placed over social networking."
Several lawyers, including Gonzalez, have voiced their frustration about the LinkedIn rule on a special LinkedIn group for Florida lawyers.
Gonzalez complains lawyers have no control over who endorses them on LinkedIn since the endorsements are done without their solicitation or knowledge. LinkedIn is the preferred form of social media for him and many other lawyers.
"I'm old school, and I don't like advertising," he said. "LinkedIn is a networking thing between professionals. It's a good idea because it's a word-of-mouth thing."