Over half of all internet users use social media on a daily basis. Social networking is the fastest growing social behavior. Naturally, many professionals, including attorneys, have turned to social media for a number of purposes. Many attorneys use social media for advertising, educational purposes, or a mix of the two.
There are a number of ethical issues surrounding the use of social media in the legal community. Lawyers are required to provide competent representation to client was well as keep abreast of changes to the law. When posting on social media attorneys should keep these rules in mind. Posts on social media sites may be used as legal advice. In fact, there is a proposed comment change that would outline the pros and cons of the use of technology in the practice of law.
When posting, it is important to remember that a lawyer cannot disclose information relating to the representation of a client without informed consent. You should ask yourself what informed consent really means. Just because it is a matter of public record doesn’t mean that you can discuss the issue. It might be sufficient to have a sentence in the retainer, but this doesn’t seem like the best practice. If you are giving details about a client you should meet with them, have them sign off on the material, and show them what you are writing. As always, the rules about disclosure apply to former clients and prospective clients.
There are a number of issues specifically related to advertising. You should not make false or misleading statements. If you are advertising you MUST have the name and address of the lawyer responsible including advertising on blog postings. If you are engaging in direct contact it is imperative that you are in compliance with Model Rule 8. Attorneys should be very wary or calling yourself a specialist, see the model rules for more information.
There are a number of issues relating to adversarial proceedings. There is an increasing trend of Facebook friending people in litigation to get details about their life or other information. Many courts have said this is not ethical behavior and attorneys should not engage in this conduct or advise clients to do so. However, if it is a public profile and anyone can see the information it is fair game. You should not advise clients to delete pages or information to keep issues from being litigated.