The South Carolina Bar and the LinkedIn “Loophole”

Lawyers in South Carolina should be aware of an alert issued by the South Carolina Bar related to the LinkedIn social network. In its entirety, the new notice, issued last week, is as follows:

LinkedIn loophole
The social media site LinkedIn has proved problematic for S.C. Lawyers, owing to an as-yet unremovable section on each lawyer’s page titled “Skills and Expertise.” Any member of the public may endorse a Bar member and note areas of “expertise.” However, under Rule 7.4 of the S.C. Rules of Professional Conduct, only certified specialists may use the term “expert” or other forms of the word. To avoid possible discipline while maintaining your LinkedIn page, follow these instructions on how to hide skill endorsements and minimize the risk. For ethics and professional responsibility assistance, contact Risk Management Director Jill Rothstein at jrothstein@scbar.org. For questions about running your law practice, contact PMAP Director Courtney Kennaday at pmap@scbar.org.

In response to the alert, we here at Abnormal Use have investigated this issue further. First, it seems clear from the alert that LinkedIn endorsements themselves are not necessarily prohibited by the South Carolina rules. Rather, the alert simply reminds South Carolina attorneys of the requisites of Rule 7.4(b) of the South Carolina Rules of Professional Conduct, which provides:

A lawyer who is not certified as a specialist but who concentrates in, limits his or her practice to, or wishes to announce a willingness to accept cases in a particular field may so advertise or publicly state in any manner otherwise permitted by these rules. To avoid confusing or misleading the public and to protect the objectives of the South Carolina certified specialization program, any such advertisement or statements shall be strictly factual and shall not contain any form of the words “certified,” “specialist,” “expert,” or “authority” except as permitted by Rule 7.4(d).

Here’s the problem: LinkedIn endorsements, by their very nature, are included in a section of the user profile entitled “Skills & Expertise.”  The rule prohibits attorneys from referring to themselves as “experts” except where certified as such.  Thus, because the LinkedIn endorsements can only appear in a section with an objectionable title, the South Carolina Bar has warned its members that any such endorsements should be hidden from view and/or deleted. In sum, it appears that the Bar’s position is that nothing should be listed under “Skills & Expertise” section of one’s LinkedIn profile.  We have learned that members of the South Carolina Bar have already contacted LinkedIn about removing the word “expertise” from the section.  We do not know how, or whether, they will respond.

Friday Links

Okay. Why are comic book superheroes and villains always being tried, and more importantly, why are the covers of the comics featuring those trials always set OUTSIDE the courtroom? What gives?  Above, you’ll find the cover of Spider-Man #60, published not so long ago in 1995. Here’s how Comicvine describes the narrative:

Peter Parker goes on trial for multiple murders in Utah committed by his clone Kaine.

The clone defense?  Must that be pleaded or waived? Sigh.

In this piece, entitled “Suicide as Gender Issue,” The Journal of Gender, Race, & Justice cites our own Stuart Mauney’s blog post on “The Lawyers’ Epidemic: Depression, Suicide, and Substance Abuse.”  Stuart recently served as the chair of the South Carolina Bar’s HELP Task Force, an entity dedicated to educating lawyers and judges about substance abuse and mental health issues in the legal profession.Check it out.  Speaking of Stuart, don’t forget that you can follow him on Twitter  here.

GWB’s own Tom Vanderbloemen recently met with the Sterling School‘s 4th thru 8th grade First Lego League/USFirst Organization team about an invention they have developed. He spoke with students concerning patent law, its history, and the processes involved in patenting a new invention. For more, see here.