In re Hunter — A Cautionary Tale

Lawyer-bloggers around the country have been closely following attorney Horace Hunter’s disciplinary matter before the Virginia State Bar.  Hunter maintains a blog on his website in which he discusses his cases.  The Virginia Bar says that his blog constitutes advertising, so a disclaimer conforming to the Virginia attorney advertising rules should be posted.  Hunter says it’s not advertising at all, and that it is protected free speech.

While the case headed off in a First Amendment direction, the cautionary warning for most of us attorneys maintaining a blog is that the risk averse behavior we cultivate in law school is the right approach to anything we put out in public.  The Bar in each state is tasked with protecting the public from unscrupulous attorneys, and the fact is that the Bar is always going to take a hyper-protective approach.  Lawyers are well-known for our long disclaimers and hedging of just about everything we say.  While in principle I understand the First Amendment arguments about attorney blogs, it is a safe approach to go ahead and put our trademark disclaimer on our blogs, just as we would on anything else we put out in the public domain from our law firms.  Along with presenting ourselves in the best possible light and representing our clients to the best of our ability, avoiding action by the Bar is high on the list of priorities for most of us.

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