Radio Lawyers and Legal Advice Columns: What are the Risks?
You might have noticed an increase in legal advice columns and talk shows if you are Vietnamese speaking and live in Northern California. These programs often feature questions from the public, followed by general advice from a professional.
This can help lawyers, Vietnamese or not, to increase their visibility, promote their practice and be seen as experts in the public eye. There are many other risks that you should be aware of.
Relationships between Attorney and Client
Before you pitch a column or morning show to your local radio and newspaper, consider the potential risks associated with free advice. There is the possibility of accidentally creating an attorney-client relationship.
Imagine a woman calling a radio station. She tells the radio station that her husband is from abroad and that she has just received her U.S. citizenship. He then asks if he can come to the United States. You may be fine if you answer the question about marriage and immigration law. If you get too specific, your caller may claim that she is her lawyer after she has broken immigration law.
“Practicing” outside your Jurisdiction
You also have to consider jurisdiction. Before you speak or write, it is important to know how far your words can reach. Even though a newspaper column or radio program is focused on a particular area, they could have an international or national reach if broadcast or reprinted online. If you give too much advice, you may be accused of practicing law without having a license.
Advertising and Confidentiality
There are also issues regarding confidentiality and advertising. Your advice should not directly or clearly relate to your availability for representation. You must ensure that your advice is in compliance with the rules regarding attorney advertising. Avoid discussing past or current representation. Generality is the key.
These risks can be reduced by taking simple precautions. Radio or newspaper advice is a similar issue to attorney blogging and social networking. You can be heard and covered with a little care and caution.