Despite the fact that LinkedIn does not allow adjustments or any customization to the headings on its website, New York State Bar Association Committee on Professional Ethics (New York State Bar Ass’n Comm. on Prof’l Ethics, Op. 972, 6/26/13) opined that a law firm may not list its services under the heading “Specialties” on LinkedIn.
The Committee held:
The New York Rules of Professional Conduct allow lawyers and law firms to make statements about their areas of practice, but the Rules also limit the wording of such statements:
A lawyer or law firm may publicly identify one or more areas of law in which the lawyer or the law firm practices, or may state that the practice of the lawyer or law firm is limited to one or more areas of law, provided that the lawyer or law firm shall not state that the lawyer or law firm is a specialist or specializes in a particular field of law, except as provided in Rule 7.4(c).
Rule 7.4(a) (emphasis added).
The Committee found that listing any areas of service under the heading of “Specialties” would constitute a claim that the lawyer or law firm “is a specialist or specializes in a particular field of law” and thus, absent certification as provided in Rule 7.4(c), would violate Rule 7.4(a). “We do not in this opinion address whether the lawyer or law firm could, consistent with Rule 7.4(a), list practice areas under other headings such as “Products & Services” or “Skills and Expertise.”
The risk management takeaway is be careful about the context in which your law firm describes its areas of practice. Apparently, “headings” matter.
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