On June 5th, a three judge panel in Virginia ruled that a lawyer did not violate ethical rules when he wrote about his cases on his blog without client consent. Attorney Horace Hunter had drawn his descriptions of cases he had won from the public record. The panel's ruling overturned a disciplinary committee's finding of misconduct under Rule 1.6, which deals with confidentiality.
However, the panel upheld the committee's finding that failing to include a disclaimer that results could vary depending on the facts did violate Rules 7.1 and 7.2 which deal with communications about a lawyer's services and attorney advertising.
The panel upheld a public admonition for those violations and ordered Hunter to post a disclaimer in 30 days.
Virginia has taken some heat for its original decision, and I agree with the panel's finding that publicly available descriptions of cases do not require client consent before publication. I also agree that there must be prominent disclaimers to inform prospective clients that all cases are fact dependent.
In preparation for giving a CLE next week, I pulled together recent incidents of lawyers who have gotten in trouble with their use of social media. It took a jumbo size clip to hold all the stories together. Perhaps more bars and bar associations need to be talking to their lawyers about the ethical implications of social media usage!