The War Against Legal Blogging: Author Bylines and Rule 7.1

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This is the second installment in our investigation into legal blogging, and the claims that ghostwriting them is somehow uncouth. You can see our overview of the issue here.


war-against-legal-blogging-author-bylineLegal blogging is a surprisingly contentious topic, especially when it comes to ghostwritten legal blogs. Keeping up a legal blog is not an easy thing for busy attorneys to do, with each post taking well over an hour: Many attorneys contract it out to legal blog writing professionals like Myers Freelance. However, because legal blogs have many of the aspects of commercial speech, these blogs need to comply with your state’s rules of professional responsibility.

Those fighting against the practice of legal blogging claim that ghostwritten legal blogs can’t comply with these rules. They’re wrong.

Here’s why ghostwritten legal blogs comply with Rule 7.1 in the ABA’s Model Rules of Professional Conduct.

Attorney Advertising Rule 7.1

Each state has its own unique version of ethical rules for attorneys. However, most of them are based on the ABA’s Model Rules.

One of the things that the ABA Model Rules deals with is how attorneys can market and advertise their firm. Model Rule 7.1 is one of the main regulations:

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 considered as a whole not materially misleading.

Ghostwritten Legal Blogs Don’t Violate Rule 7.1

The main claim for a ghostwritten legal blog violating Rule 7.1 is that the author byline on a ghostwritten legal blog is a “false or misleading communication.” According to Kevin O’Keefe’s blog at LexBlog, attorney Kailee Goold says that 7.1 gets violated whenever you, as an attorney, “[place] your name as the author of a blog post on a post you did not author.” This, Goold says, is a “false and misleading communication” that violates Rule 7.1.

Goold’s point, however, overlooks the basic fact that ghostwritten legal blogs – when they are professionally done – don’t have an author’s byline. Professional legal bloggers know that Rule 7.1 exists, and therefore don’t make any statement at all about who wrote the article. At most, professional legal bloggers include information on who posted the article to your firm’s site, which is something distinct from who actually wrote the article.

The follow up, of course, is that this could violate 7.1 by omitting a “fact necessary to make the statement considered as a whole not materially misleading.” If a ghostwritten blog article is written in the first person and is all about how the attorney hit a homerun for a client, then sure, that would be a problem if the writer wasn’t actually the attorney. That’s why professional legal bloggers don’t write that kind of article. We stick to topics that don’t become “materially misleading” simply because they’re ghostwritten.

In the end, therefore, blanket statements claiming that Rule 7.1 is violated by any ghostwritten legal blog are just silly. Any professional legal blogger worth his or her salt has already accounted for the situation, and ensures that every article written complies with the rule.

Myers Freelance – Professional Legal Blogging

Ethical rules are one of the things that professional legal bloggers know they have to deal with on a daily basis. At Myers Freelance, we understand the nuances of the ethical rules that regulate legal blogging in your state, and know how to pen a well-written legal blog that complies with them, including with your state’s equivalent of Rule 7.1.

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