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LawBiz® TIPS – Week of October 29, 2013

LawBiz(r) newsletter

I had the good fortune to attend the last Indy track race of the season, held here in Southern California, and I met the season winner in the pit area.

Last Thursday, I joined the national Porsche rally, also held in Southern California. Although I have owned a Porsche for the last 30 years, I never joined the Porsche Club of America (PCA) until this year. I am the original owner of a 1983 911 SC. It was a real hoot to have my car lined up with 300 other Porsches of varying vintage and style. If you can imagine, there were several rows of cars lined up in a semi-circle facing a center screen which showed the Steve McQueen film, Bullitt. As my wife said, it felt like "date night."

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Don't Practice Law Like a Veterinarian

Recent news reports told of a virtual veterinarian who faced a legal test in Texas. He moved his practice online and communicated to distressed pet owners by email and telephone. He charged a flat fee, generally, and recommended treatment options. The Texas State Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners suspended his license for violating the state law that prevents veterinarians from setting up a medical relationship solely by telephone or electronic means. The state and the American Veterinary Medicine Association claimed that it is protecting the public's interest. The vet claimed that the regulation is intended to protect the brick-and-mortar veterinarian from competition by new technologies and methodologies, and a federal lawsuit filed on his behalf by a libertarian group claims this is unconstitutional restraint of trade.

No matter what one thinks about the brick-and-mortar issue, there are other concerns in the veterinarian's situation that are relevant to online legal practice, most especially in the area of client contact. Note that the veterinarian established relationships and provided advice solely as a virtual practitioner without every meeting clients - whether two- or four-legged. What are the ethical implications for a lawyer in doing the same thing, especially with the increased temptation to use social media as an all-purpose contact and communication tool?

On the surface, it would seem that the momentum for social media use in the legal profession cannot be held back. However, Facebook and Twitter are available to the world at large. Prudence should dictate that the information provided should be through the lens of general discussion and opinion and not offering legal advice. That is, if a social media post has a bearing on a lawyer's areas of emphasis and thereby has the possibility of generating new business, then it is likely regulated by all the rules of professional conduct. Even if such a communication is personal, it will have professional impact on clients and prospective clients.

Prospective clients can use social networking resources to check out the lawyers' credentials, experience and testimonials, get feedback from current clients, and even get a personal feel from what lawyers reveal on these sites about their family, hobbies and opinions. This is the best path to establishing a practice relationship - one not available to cats and cows.[1]

[1] Council on Licensure, Enforcement and Regulation,

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