No name games
It is not just bad taste to include cutesy taglines or clever calls to action in one's name on LinkedIn, Facebook, or other social media. For Texas lawyers, these can easily fall into the category of prohibited direct solicitations to the public. Examples: "John Doe, Ambitious & dedicated attorney, loves the smell of litigation in the morning" "Jane Doe, J.D., Primary Care Attorney because businesses need legal advice on a wide range of legal topics" "John Doe Jr., CALL ME NOW FOR LEGAL ADVICE 555-5555" See TDRPC 7.04, 7.05.
Specialty is spooky
Fields, labels, or categories that boast "specialty" or any variation thereof (it might be prudent to include the word "expert" here as well) are potential ethical violations waiting to happen. Many lawyers confuse "competence" in a practice area with "specialty." Only active members of the Texas Boards of Legal Specialization are "specialists" in the eyes of the Texas Supreme Court and the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct. Also: many social media marketers offer ways of listing non-board certified attorneys as "specialists" in certain fields. Allowing someone else to make such a false statement is likewise prohibited. See TDRPC 7.04, 7.05, 8.04.
No false friends
One of the biggest myths about social media is that it is filled with information ripe for the plucking. The rules regarding this kind of dirt-digging are quite nuanced. For instance, if a lawyer is already "Facebook friends" with a party prior to their becoming an adversarial party, or if the party has a publicly available profile, there is no restriction on the lawyer's use of information volunteered on Facebook by that party. On the other hand, "pre-texting" to gain restricted information is a prohibited misrepresentation. One of the paradigmatic examples of "pre-texting" is the practice of "Facebook friending" an adversarial party after litigation has commenced to dig information from their privately restricted profile. See TDRPC 4.01.
Expressing en espanol
One of the most overlooked ethical violations is the selective use of a foreign language. Indicating proficiency in a language is expressly allowed. But if any part of a lawyer's message in a public advertisement is in a different language, then the entire message needs to be available in the second language with the same emphasis. See TDRPC 7.02(d), 7.04(q).
1. Social media communications is not the Wild West for lawyers. Just because certain communications are conceivable involving social media, does not mean such communications are permissible under Texas state law. 2. Lawyers cannot do through others what they cannot do themselves. 3. Lawyers' communications are more scrutinized than those of the general public. Many of the onerous restrictions on advertising do not logically or naturally occur to businesspeople or attorneys who are unfamiliar with the rules. 4. Even innocent ethical violations can carry steep consequences. 5. Lawyers who "wing it" when they make a website or social media profile do so at their own peril. It's easier to seek the help of knowledgeable counsel upfront and avoid trouble later. Drug companies do their homework before making FDA-regulated statements, so why shouldn't lawyers do the same? 6. The consequences of ethical violations on social media harm clients as well. See TDRPC 1.15, 7.06.