In recent years, the ABA and a number of state bar associations have attempted to more specifically outline the ethics of online advertising. Some areas, however, still remain gray. One such area is LinkedIn endorsements.
On LinkedIn, members may “endorse” each other for their skills and expertise. You may request an endorsement from someone you know that is familiar with your expertise. Or someone that barely knows you may offer an endorsement, unasked. Because there are no hurdles to jump through to prove that an endorsement is legitimate, an ethical quandary emerges. If someone gives you an endorsement that may be misleading, does this violate ABA Model Rule 7.1 (A lawyer shall not make a false or misleading communication about the lawyer or the lawyer’s services.)?
Because the endorsement is not a statement from the lawyer about his or her own skills, the answer might be no. However, in certain states with more stringent rules, endorsements may constitute testimonials. In these states, a disclaimer must accompany any testimonials.
As an attorney, you should tread carefully when optimizing your LinkedIn profile, particularly if you live in a state with more stringent ethics guidelines. It may be wise to add a disclaimer to your profile or hide any endorsements that could be misleading.