When someone comes to your website and they’re reading your blog, perhaps reading a practice area page, they may think it’s legal advice. For example, if they see something in your blog where you’re describing a case scenario, which you’re always careful to do hypothetically, and it seems to be pertinent to their legal issue, they might think, “Okay, now I know what to do in my case.”
We certainly don’t want anyone relying to their detriment on content that they read on our website or elsewhere in out online content. It may expose us to lawsuits for malpractice and we don’t want anything like that, however meritorious or otherwise. Nor do we want our insurance company getting wind of this sort of stuff.
How do we manage the expectations of people? How do we get them to understand that when they come to the website, what they’re reading is legal information, not legal advice?
We do that through disclaimers. [endnote] If you don’t have one on your website, draft one and get it up there. Your ideal Disclaimer will be exhaustive, well written and deployed liberally throughout your pages to avoid potential misunderstandings and educate those who may be seeking legal advice.
To make sure people understand that your website content is legal information, not advice, prominent in your disclaimer should clearly express that
“What you’re reading on this website is legal information, not legal advice. Everyone’s facts and circumstances are different. The information you are reading here is no substitute for talking to a qualified lawyer and getting legal advice specific to your facts and circumstances.”
ABA Formal Opinion 10-457 discusses the various ways that people may be misled by content on your website. It recommends phrasing your disclaimer in lay terms that less sophisticated website visitors will easily understand.