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Is Tweeting for Clients the Same as Solicitation?

What's the difference between tweeting a prospective client and outright solicitation? I'm not entirely sure, but an encounter between a car accident victim and a lawyer on Twitter, described at Law Firm and Attorney SEO and Internet Marketing, came close enough to trigger the question in my mind.

From the post, here's what happened. A woman whose car was hit while she was unloading groceries tweeted the following message:

In response, she received a direct message from a local attorney:

Based on this correspondence, the local attorney's offer of representation comes awfully close to a solicitation, which is a communication initiated by a lawyer or law firm, as opposed to one made in response to an inquiry initiated by a potential client. Here, the above tweet didn't request assistance suing a driver, but instead, sought information about whether posting photos of an accident might prejudice an insurance company. There's no indication from the tweet that the woman had any interest in suing another driver.

Granted, these tweets may have been taken out of context. Even so, unless the woman expressly stated that she wanted to sue the driver, a tweet responding with an offer of representation could be construed as a solicitation. 

This exchange bears out two important lessons. First, Twitter may offer an informal way for lawyers to communicate, but it doesn't alter our ethics obligations. If a communication walks like a duck (i.e., a solicitation) and talks like a duck, an ethics board will conclude that it's a duck, even though it was sent by a "lawyer bird."

Second, it seems the folks at Law Firm and Attorney SEO and Internet Marketing posted this exchange to illustrate the value of Twitter in lawyer marketing. Lawyers need to realize that even though a marketing group endorses a particular practice doesn't mean that the bar will accept it. Independent judgment still applies, even when -- or especially when -- you're only dealing with 140 characters.

Posted by Carolyn Elefant on February 6, 2009 at 04:58 PM | Permalink | Comments (10)


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