Recently, a number of my LinkedIn contacts have offered to “endorse” my skills or knowledge in certain areas, such as “legal research,” “legal writing,” or “courts.” (This is a relatively new LinkedIn feature.) Of course, I am grateful for the offers to “endorse” me, but I do have some ethics-related questions about accepting them.
Consider that, if I accept these endorsements, they will be added to my LinkedIn profile and visible to hundreds of my contacts to see. I believe that I can configure my profile in such a way that these endorsements are visible to the general public, but assume for now that they are visible only to my contacts, which include former students, professional colleagues, and friends.
My first question is whether these endorsements are subject to the rules of professional conduct. It seems to me that they are, given that they are “communications concerning a lawyer’s [i.e., my] services.” They will be seen by many professional colleagues, some of whom have worked with me or might want to use my services in the future.
Assuming I’m right that these endorsements need to comply with the rules of professional conduct, let’s imagine that someone offers to endorse me who has no basis for assessing my skills in a particular area. Perhaps the endorser is a friend who has never worked with me. Or imagine that someone offers to endorse my skills or knowledge in an area I know very little about. For example, one of my contacts offered to endorse me in the area of “International Law,” even though I know very little about the subject. If I accept endorsements of this sort (i.e., endorsements from people who have not worked with me or endorsements of skills/knowledge I don’t have), it seems to me that my acceptance of the endorsement and making it visible to my contacts would be misleading and violate Rule 7.1. Does anyone disagree?
Second, assume for the sake of argument that someone actually knows my professional abilities, because (for example) the person has worked with me. Also assume that I believe that I have the skills or knowledge my contact wants to endorse (say, legal research or courts). I think it would be ethically permissible for me to accept this endorsement, at least under the Model Rules, but depending on the circumstances, it might be a problem in some jurisdictions, which expressly regulate endorsements by clients as well as paid testimonials. (See here and search the word “endorse” or "testimonial.")
Another possible problem is if I offer to endorse someone only if that person endorses me or if I accept an endorsement on the condition that I offer a reciprocal endorsement. It seems to me that these arrangements could be viewed as offers to give “something of value” (i.e., an endorsement) in exchange for a “recommendation,” potentially violating Rule 7.2(b).