Now more than ever, lawyers and law firms must consider the proper use of a disclaimer on websites. In fact, right now, the ABA is considering amendments to the Model Rules of Professional Conduct. One proposed amendment recommends the use of disclaimers when dealing with prospective clients.
The proposed amendment to Model Rule 1.18, Duties to Prospective Clients, would expand the definition of a “consultation” to apply to a situation where a person contacts a lawyer as a result of a lawyer or law firm website’s invitation to communicate where there are no clear and reasonably understandable warnings and cautionary statements that limit the lawyer’s obligations.
So in other words, let’s say a website visitor contacts or emails a lawyer through the use of the lawyer’s website contact form. If the lawyer does not have an appropriate disclaimer on the website, limiting the lawyer’s obligations, that email or contact from the website visitor could be viewed as a consultation, which triggers other ethical requirements like confidentiality or avoiding conflicts of interest.
This is especially important for certain kinds of lawyers, ones who represent people on both sides of the fence. For example, family lawyers who may represent husband and wife or a commercial litigator who represents multiple businesses in all kinds of disputes, should be sure their websites contain appropriate disclaimers.
Even if the model rules of professional conduct are not amended, it is good practice to err on the side of caution when dealing with lawyer internet marketing ethics issues and the duty of confidentiality and the duty to avoid conflicts of interest.
More Legal Internet & Ethics Articles:
- Lawyer Internet Marketing & Ethics Update – ABA Proposed Changes to Model Rules of Professional Conduct
Learn more about Lawyer Internet Marketing & Ethics.