Blawg rules. The California State Bar has issued an opinion outlining the circumstances under which an attorney’s blog would be subject to the requirements of the California State Bar Act’s Rules of Professional Conduct regulating attorney advertising. According to the opinion, a legal blog qualifies as attorney advertising if it conveys the message that the lawyer is available for professional employment directly, “through words of invitation or offer to provide legal services,” or implicitly, by describing the lawyer’s legal services or case results. The opinion gives what it describes as an “extreme” example of an attorney’s implicit expression of his or her availability: A blog in which a lawyer hyperlinks his name on the blog to his law firm’s professional web page; identifies himself as “one of California’s premier criminal defense lawyers”; doesn’t allow readers to post comments; and contains a blog entry in which the lawyer writes, “Once again, I was able to convince a jury that there was reasonable doubt that my client – who had tested positive for cocaine when pulled over by the local constabulary for erratic driving – was completely unaware of the two-kilo bag of the same substance in her trunk. They were absolutely mesmerized by my closing argument.” This lawyer’s blog would violate two of the state’s ethics rules, the opinion explains, including one prohibiting messages “as to the ultimate result of a specific case or cases presented out of context without adequately providing information as to the facts or law giving rise to the result.” So, what kind of a legal blog would fall outside of California’s “attorney advertising” category? One that, for example, identifies a family lawyer as the author, features articles of potential interest to the lawyer’s current or prospective clients, contains bylines hyperlinked to the lawyer’s professional web page, never focuses on the lawyer’s current or former cases or describes his practice, and doesn’t end any blog posts with the admonition that if the reader has “any questions about your divorce or custody case, you can contact” the attorney/blog author.
Lost and found. Law enforcement departments and agencies have been using social media almost since its inception to quickly disseminate and solicit information important to locating stolen property and missing persons, identifying criminal perpetrators, and preventing crimes. The authorities’ posts are usually very dry, however, featuring brief explanations of the crimes they’re trying to solve, or descriptions and photos of the missing criminals, children, or property they’re trying to locate. But the police department in the 2,200-resident town of Crewe, Va., recently took a different tack. After responding to a call from a local Super Dollar store about a suspicious white powder found in the store’s aisle, a member of that department penned the following Facebook post: “If you mistakenly dropped your cocaine today and were at the Super Dollar, please contact us. We would like to talk with you further about your property.” What at first blush appeared to be a trap intended to ensnare the world’s dumbest crook was actually a playful attempt to get the department’s social media followers’ attention, according to Detective Ella Turner, the officer responsible for the post. “We want them to realize we’re human and to talk to us,” Turner told the Washington Post. “If we’re humorous, that can get the ball rolling.” The department’s responses to the Facebook followers who commented on the post clarified the department’s intention: “We will not give you back your illegal narcotics. The narcotics are weighed, photographed and placed into an evidence locker to be destroyed upon the approval of the courts.”
The Internet of Things Toast. Here’s a gift idea for the social media enthusiast in your life who can’t get enough of his own image: The selfie toaster. Just think: Your friend or loved one can wake up to his own face imprinted on a piece of bread every morning. For $69, the Vermont Novelty Toaster Corporation will custom make toaster inserts using images that you provide – one photo for toast bearing the same image on both sides, two for toast with a different image on each side. While the product’s reviews are very positive, the selfie toaster does have its limitations: The company’s marketing copy warns that “props or gimmicks in front of faces do not usually show up well on toast” and “animals with all black fur are extremely hard if not impossible to achieve.”