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NY State Bar Says Law Firms May Not List Specialties on their Linkedin Profile

First, I’d like to thank each and every one of my LinkedIn connections who have generously endorsed my "skills and expertise" in the areas of professional liability insurance and risk management.  Now, I have to go to my LinkedIn profile and “hide” them from view! 

The New York State Bar and the South Carolina Bar have both issued opinions stating that Rule 1.7, (governing lawyers’ communications) prohibits law firms and attorneys who are not certified by the State Bar from listing areas of expertise under the “Specialties” section of their LinkedIn profile. The LinkedIn profile includes a section for "specialties" which prompted the user to list their areas of expertise.  On my own LinkedIn profile, I listed professional liability insurance, legal malpractice insurance, and other "specialties". Previously, the heading "specialties" on the LinkedIn profile could not be changed,  That situation has been revised because I was able to edit my LinkedIn profile to change the word "specialties" to "insurance services."  

For a detailed discussion of the New York opinion, take a look at this excellent article by the ABA Professional Liability Update.  I recommend that every lawyer on LinkedIn review this article and their profile to assure compliance with current ethics opinions.  

Although I could argue (I am a lawyer after all) that my list of  LinkedIn “specialties” refers to the work I do while wearing my insurance broker hat, I would prefer not to subject myself to the scrutiny of the bar. When it comes to ethics compliance, I always think it’s best to view the rules as a minimum, rather than maximum standard of conduct. 

Rule 5.7(a)(2) of the North Carolina Rules of Professional Conduct provides guidance on when a lawyer who provides business services separate from legal services must comply with the Rules of Professional Conduct.  To simplify matters, I have decided to apply the lawyers’ rules of professional conduct to my business practices as a matter of routine.  It’s less complicated to just assume that I have to comply with both legal ethics and insurance ethics than to try to figure out which rule to apply when.  When, I need to make a decision on the fly – I just adopt the Golden Rule and treat each client, whether a legal, mediation or insurance client as I would want to be treated.  More often than not, the Golden Rule covers all the bases. 

So, thank you again to all my LinkedIn friends and colleagues for your generous endorsements.  I regret that I am unable to share them on my public profile.  However, I would point out that the North Carolina State Bar has issued 2012 Formal Ethics Opinion 8 stating that lawyers may accept recommendations on LinkedIn.  So, next time you want to help out a fellow attorney, take a few moments to write a nice testimonial for their website or a recommendation on LinkedIn.  That’s what I plan to do.


Louise Paglen is a NC licensed attorney who provides risk management and insurance services to other professionals.  She is the founder and owner of Intelisure Insurance Pro, http://www.intelisure.com, licensed to provide insurance services in NC, SC, VA, GA, and FL.  Louise may be reached at louise@intelisure.com or (800) 242-7250.   To schedule a telephone consultation, click here.  

View Louise Paglen's profile on LinkedIn
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