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Legal Marketing LinkedIn

Endorsements: A Question of Legal Ethics? Elisha N. Hawk

A couple of months ago, I received an invitation

to connect with an attorney through the popular networking site, LinkedIn. Although I had

never met her personally, I had responded to some of her questions on a legal listserv, and I recognized her name. In the next few days after accepting her invitation to connect, I began to receive LinkedIn notifications that my new contact had endorsed me. LinkedIn allows you to identify and select skills

or expertise that you would like to showcase on your professional profile. It’s similar to checking the box in a pull down menu on a career building website. Once you select a skill, your LinkedIn connections have the option of endorsing you for any skill you have selected. For example, when you log into your LinkedIn account, you may be prompted with the following query from LinkedIn: “What skills or expertise do your connections have?” And, you will see pictures of four of your connections along with some skills. You can choose to endorse one or all or none of them. You can then scroll through more friends, or you can move right along to your original purpose for logging into your account. Similarly, once someone endorses you, LinkedIn

sends you the following notification: “Your connection has endorsed you for the following skill….” At which point, you have the option of adding the endorsement to your profile, or skipping it. In my case, my new connection initially endorsed

me for civil litigation and personal injury – things that I have included as skills on my profile. Because I believe I have those skills, her endorsements gave me no pause, and I added them to my profile. Then, I received an endorsement from her for criminal law. Criminal law? I don’t practice criminal law. Nor, had I selected criminal law as a skill on my profile. I hadn’t realized that in

addition to identifying the skills that I wanted to include on my profile, LinkedIn also prompted my connections with queries permitting them to identify other potentially related skills that I may or may not have in my arsenal. I didn’t accept the endorsement for criminal law, but again, at the time, I didn’t think much of it, other than to think,: “wow, she really doesn’t know what I do.”

Within weeks, or maybe even days, an email alert

came through my inbox from the ABA, highlighting topics of interest, including another lawyer’s blog about the legal ethics of LinkedIn endorsements. I couldn’t help but be drawn to it, given my recent experience. Robert Ambrogi’s experience was strikingly similar to my own. Only, unlike my case, where I had not given much thought to the endorsements, he had been moved to wonder about the legal ethics that might be called into question by the LinkedIn endorsements. After all, “under ABA Model Rule 7.1, a lawyer is not to make any false or misleading claims about his or her services.” endorsements-violate-legal-ethics.html. Ambrogi delved deeper into the subject and found

various opinions on the issue. Some folks in the legal industry believe LinkedIn endorsements are OK, so long as they are made by a person who knows the attorney’s skills and as long as the attorney does in fact have those skills, but cautioned against a violation of Model Rule 7.2(b) that could come from a quid pro quo or reciprocal endorsement. Id. There is by no means across the board consensus. Ambrogi discovered another attorney’s

Trial Reporter / Winter 2014 47

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