Washington Law Review


Louise L. Hill


Lawyer communications on the Internet constituting commercial speech are subject to state ethics rules governing lawyer advertising and communication. Because each state operates as a separate entity with its own rules that govern the lawyers of its jurisdiction, the profession is faced with disparate standards on a jurisdictional basis. Of the forty-three states that have adopted the Model Rules of Professional Conduct, four-fifths have standards on lawyer communications that vary from those in the Model Rules. Not only is there variation in the rules themselves, but differences exist in the specific applicability and interpretation of these rules to components of electronic communications. As technology evolves, new features continue to surface that present the profession with questions relating to the propriety of their use. When a lawyer communicates on the Internet, it is unclear which jurisdiction's rules are applicable and to what standard the conduct of lawyers will be held. Technological changes have helped to render state-by-state regulation of lawyer communications both ineffective and obsolete. To enable lawyers to properly conduct themselves in the practice of law and most effectively represent clients, lawyer communications should be regulated by national standards rather than by individual state rules.

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