To borrow a phrase from Larry David and Teri Hatcher, my blog posts are real and they’re spectacular! Apparently not all law blogs can truthfully say the former.
Last month, the ABA Journal posted Ghostwriting for law blogs? Ethics are murky. It’s a topic that’s new to me, one not raised in any of the ethics inquiries or formal disciplinary complaints that I’ve responded to and reviewed over the years. The ABA Journal post includes insight from some of the more well-known voices on both professional responsibility and tech ethics.
But let’s back up for a moment. You might be asking your self: “self, what is Mike even talking about?” Good question.
“What are We Talking About?
The ghost-blogging I’m talking about is when an attorney pays someone else (a non-attorney) to write articles published under the attorney’s name on the attorney or law firm’s website. As a result, the world thinks the attorney wrote it when the attorney had little to no part in its creation.”
Again, not an issue I’ve encountered. But, an issue that raises ethics concerns.
Many law blogs are part of a lawyer’s website. Websites communicate information about the services that the lawyer provides. Per V.R.Pr.C. 7.1,
- “A lawyer shall not make a false or misleading communication about the lawyer or the lawyer’s services. A communication is false or misleading if it contains a material misrepresentation of fact or law, or omits a fact necessary to make the statement as a whole not materially misleading.”
The final sentence of Comment  is “whatever means are used to make known a lawyer’s services, statements about them must be truthful.”
Also, V.R.Pr.C. 8.4(c) prohibits a lawyer from engaging in conduct that involves “dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation.”
So, let’s say that a firm focuses on Practice Area. And let’s say that the firm’s website includes a blog dedicated to Practice Area. Does the firm violate the rules by paying a content developer to ghostwrite the posts and then posting them under the “byline” of one of the firm’s lawyers?
My gut reaction was “is it really THAT misleading?” But then I paused. Because whenever we start asking whether something “is really THAT misleading,” we’ve established that it is, in fact, misleading.
In that it never arises, I don’t want to belabor the issue. Suffice to say, if your website or blog includes posts that you paid someone else to ghostwrite, check out the articles referenced above.
Finally, I proof read by reading aloud. Reading this blog about law blogs aloud reminded me of two things.
Because, like me, I know they’re fans of the second thing that reading today’s post aloud reminded me of: the world’s greatest law blog – The Bob Loblaw Law Blog.