File this under the category of “gross misunderstanding of blogs and technology:” – a malpractice insurer’s recent decision to deny coverage to a law firm because of its weblogs. Apparently, the insurer believed that the blogs could potentially expose the firm to liability, either through an implication that the blog offered legal advice or somehow gave rise to an attorney-client relationship.
Frankly, this is just crazy. No one ever suggested that law review articles or newspaper advice columns constitute advice. No one ever required lawyers to paper their written work with disclaimers. So why are blogs are any different?
Yes, a disclaimer will shield a blog from liability, but to my mind, that’s not an adequate solution. Disclaimers detract from the quality of advice provided. When lawyers need to post disclaimers like “this is advertising” or “do not rely on this advice” on their blogs, it conveys the impression of second class status, as if the blog were some kind of informercial instead of a valuable and reliable source of information. Plus, just the suggestion that blogs may expose lawyers to liability invites the bar to step up regulation of blogs, which is a dangerous development.
Perhaps the day will come when readers start suing bloggers for advice provided. If and when that happens, insurers might be justified in examining the malpractice consequences of blogs. But right now, it’s premature, and if anything, plants the seed that these kinds of liability might actually be viable.