The South Carolina Bar looked at a question I often get ask in its Ethics Advisory Opinion 12-03. Should an attorney disclaim information provided in a public forum as not constituting legal advice? The context of this question for South Carolina is regarding an advice website where the attorneys are compensated. That isn’t the context where I get that question.
Should You Disclaim the Information on Your Blog or Website?
According to the South Carolina Bar and also the opinions it lists for support, the key question is whether the information you provide is based on a set of facts submitted to the attorney by a questioner or generalized information about a legal issue. A fuzzy area to me is where a blogger writes about a client’s situation without revealing confidential information which provides the facts and then states the advice.
What is the Difference Between Legal Advice & Legal Information?
Is that specific enough to require a disclaimer by the attorney that this information isn’t to be relied on as legal advice? My guess is that the attorney would be in the clear because he isn’t responding to a specific question from an inquiring individual. However, I would recommend against delineating fact patterns in blog posts or on your website. Instead, pose a series of questions that a client facing specific facts should consider before a lawyer could provide any advice.
In the specific case the South Carolina Bar reviews, it objects to the “answers” website because the lawyer gets compensated by a third party, not the client and the attorney is answering specific questions from individuals, meaning a generalized disclaimer not to consider the information as legal advise fails to apply.