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The War Against Legal Blogging: Rule 8.4(c)

This is the third installment in a series of blog posts by Myers Freelance about the movement against legal blogging, particularly the practice of ghostwriting. Here’s the overview of the problem, and here’s our discussion on why ghostwritten legal blogs don’t violate Model Rule 7.1.

You didn’t need us to say that lawyers love to argue. It’s an almost inherent part of the job description. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that there are both supporters and detractors in world of legal blogging. This becomes especially true when it comes to ghostwriting legal blogs.

Many attorneys who keep legal blogs on their firm’s website contract out the writing duties to professional legal bloggers, like those at Myers Freelance, so they can focus on representing clients. This practice is called ghostwriting, and it rankles the feathers of attorneys who struggle to maintain their own blog. Many of these annoyed attorneys are the same ones who claim that ghostwritten legal blogs violate attorney advertising rules.

One of the rules these attorneys claim it violates is Rule 8.4(c) in the ABA’s Model Rules of Professional Conduct. Here’s why they’re wrong.

ABA Rule 8.4(c)

Every state has its own set of ethical rules of lawyers. However, nearly all states base their ethical rules on the ABA’s Model Rules, so rather than do a jurisdictional sweep and give a rundown of all 50 states, we’re only going to talk about Rule 8.4(c) in the context of the Model Rules.

Rule 8.4(c) of the ABA’s Model Rules of Professional Conduct deals with misconduct, and states:

It is professional misconduct for a lawyer to… Engage in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation

Ghostwritten Legal Blogs Don’t Violate Rule 8.4(c)

The claim that ghostwritten legal blogs violate ABA’s Rule 8.4(c) is made by Kevin O’Keefe in his LexBlog. His argument that ghostwritten legal blogs violate Rule 8.4(c) piggy-backs off of his argument that they violate Rule 7.1, which we discussed in our last post. Quoting an employment lawyer from Columbus, Kailee Goold, O’Keefe says that “having someone’s name appear as the author who did not in fact author the post is a misrepresentation or an act of dishonesty.”

However, the same problem persists from O’Keefe’s claim that ghostwritten blogs violate Rule 7.1: Professional legal ghostwriters like those at Myers Freelance never put someone else’s name as the author of the post. Instead, the blog posts that Myers Freelance writes are posted without any author byline, at all. No one’s name “appears as the author.” At most, professionally ghostwritten blog posts include information on who posted the piece to your law firm’s website – something that is distinct from who wrote it.

Ironically, O’Keefe’s argument rests on a misrepresentation of what actually goes on in the industry.

Legal Blogging at Myers Freelance

The professional legal bloggers at Myers Freelance all have legal degrees, experience, and that knowledge that attorneys have to abide by their rules of professional conduct. We take those rules into account every time we write a legal blog post, and ensure that our material complies with all of them, including ABA Rule 8.4(c). Contact Myers Freelance online to get started on a blog for your firm.