I IPNmmigration Practice News
American Immigration Lawyers Association www.aila.org
Vol. 2 Issue 4
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Online Legal Forums: Advise With Care
Steps To Avoid Forming Inadvertent Client-Lawyer Relationships on the Web
By Alan B. Goldfarb S u
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ocial media sites give the public new ways to ask lawyers for answers to legal
questions. Lawyers participate in these online forums because they provide an effective and affordable way of marketing their services to the public. Avvo, which bills itself as the world’s largest legal directory, explains on its own site that: “One of the most effective ways to get clients and show off your expertise is to answer consumer questions posted to our Ask a Lawyer forum.”
Use Caution in Answering Legal Questions Online Attorney-client relationships are easily created. Lawyers also owe duties to prospective clients. This advisory addresses specific risks
u ISSUE HIGHLIGHTS: Are You My Attorney? 2 How To Properly Turn Down a Potential Client 4 www.aila.org 1
of participating in social network- ing sites, including disqualifying conflicts of interest and the inad- vertent creation of client-lawyer relationships. It also provides practical steps to avoid these unin- tended consequences. The possi- bility of a conflict of interest stems from the anonymous nature of the conversation. In an extreme case, a lawyer posting answers on a legal forum may unknowingly be com- municating with an adverse party.
Avoid Inadvertently Creating Client-Lawyer Relationship ABA Model Rule 1.18 and ABA and State Ethics Opinions offer some practical guidance. Arizona Opinion 97-04 addressed the question whether lawyers should answer specific legal questions posed by lay persons in legal chat rooms. According to this opinion, lawyers should not answer specific questions because CONTINUED ON 3 >>
“In an extreme case, a lawyer posting answers on a legal forum may unknow- ingly be communicating with an adverse party.”