Big Brother and Your Law Firm Website

What if bar associations or ethics boards tracked everything you put on your website? The technology exists, as Carolyn Elefant points out. Docracy already does it for terms of service for companies like Twitter. It would be pretty easy to set up a service that tracked every change you make to your website and archive it.

Ethics authorities would presumably run searches on words like specializes or undefeated and flag those websites for further review. Or just have a bot send out citations, red-light-camera style.

Scott Greenfield thinks it is a great idea, because it would put a damper on deceptive internet marketing by lawyers. Carolyn seems less certain, but in favor. I think using cheap-and-easy technology to archive lawyers’ websites is a no-brainer. So is running searches to look for violations.

I am not concerned about what the ethics authorities will do with those violations, so long as they satisfy due process (which doesn’t mean sending out bot-generated citations). I think minor violations will draw minor sanctions, and major violations will get major ones. It’s possible that an ethics investigator or two may get caught up in the bloodlust of the moment and start trying to disbar lawyers for calling themselves “personal injury specialists” instead of using alternatives like “focusing on personal injury,” but it seems unlikely.

What is more likely is that, faced with the prospect of perfect memory, lawyers (and probably more significantly, legal marketing consultants) start paying attention to the rules.


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