Lately, the blogosphere has seemed like a dangerous place. Scott Greenfield warned of a pscycho on Twitter who was originally retained by an attorney to conduct her online marketing campaign. ERic Turkewitz alerts us to unseemly marketing tactics by Findlaw, like spamming blogs with comments and creating “shell” blogs designed to boost SEO and siphon traffic from legitimate and established blogs with similar topics. And Brian Cuban writes about lawyers and former lawyers who provide social media consulting in a deceptive or at least not entirely transparent manner.
As deception grows, however, so too has the phenomenon that Cuban describes as “policing” the blogosphere and that David Giacalone once described as characterized as e-shaming. To me, these dual developments — lawyers (or law related companies) selling non-legal marketing products to lawyers and the subsequent rise of e-shaming raises lots of interesting questions, including:
1. What are the ethical obligations of lawyers who market non-legal services?
2. Is e-shaming or publicly warning others an appropriate response?
3. Do lawyers have an affirmative ethics obligation to report other lawyers who engage in deceptive practices in marketing non-legal services?
4. What about the problem of “false positives” – situations where a blogger criticizes another lawyer and turns out to be mistaken?
To help sort through these questions, I spoke with Brian Tannebaum, whose practice includes professional ethics issues and who has also been recognized for his role as a “Twitter cop”. It’s clear that Brian has given plenty of thought to these issues, and he offers thoughtful, even-handed guidance. This interview is a must-listen for lawyers who market social media and consulting services to other lawyers as well as for lawyers who are considering using these services. Once you’ve listened in, I’d love to hear your thoughts on these issues so please feel free to comment below.
Brian Tannebaum’s ethics blog, My Law License.