Lawyers and Social Media

Wisconsin Lawyer (May 2012) has an interesting read regarding the use of social media by lawyers.  These are the excerpts that caught my eye:

8 “Don’ts” When Using Social Media

  1. Don’t talk about clients or their matters.
  2. Don’t talk to clients about their matters.
  3. Don’t run afoul of the marketing-related Rules of Professional Conduct.
  4. Don’t engage in the unauthorized practice of law.
  5. Don’t engage in conflicts of interest.
  6. Don’t give legal advice online.
  7. Don’t jeopardize your identity. Protect it.
  8. Don’t make the wrong “friends.”

Risks when using Social Media

When using social media specifically for client development or marketing, you should be aware of the following additional risks:

  • Inadvertently establishing a lawyer-client relationship;
  • Providing legal advice to a nonclient without checking for potential conflicts of interest;
  • Not having enough oversight about how the firm or lawyers in the firm are being held out to the public;
  • Making snap decisions on new client intake;
  • Violating rules prohibiting direct solicitation of prospective clients; and
  • Engaging in the unauthorized practice of law or practicing out of jurisdiction.

In a Web-based environment, confidentiality can be more easily compromised than it might be when working through more traditional communication methods. Adesso says, “There are many times when social media is not the best forum to use. Social media does not easily allow for confidential communications, and thus should not be used in conjunction with any kind of adverse communication or contact with opposing counsel. In addition, there are many channels of advertising that will reach certain clients in a way that will not work on social media. However, if social media is done properly, it can act as an excellent entree to the more sophisticated or traditional means of communicating the message.”

Confidentiality can be breached in a number of ways when operating in an electronic environment, including by:

  • Failing to back up or protect client information;
  • Leaving a computer on or unattended;
  • Failing to secure your wireless network;
  • Having inadequate security (antivirus software and a firewall);
  • Failing to remove metadata or password protect-sensitive email attachments;
  • Inadvertently using the auto-fill function when sending email;
  • Inadvertently disclosing privileged or confidential client information;
  • Disclosing information without a client’s informed consent; and
  • Failing to provide a client with an electronically stored file.
  • Engaging in ex parte communication;
  • Making deceptive requests to gather information;
  • Failing to advise clients of the risks inherent in using social networking sites;
  • Directly contacting an adverse party;
  • Leaving an electronic trail that might provide a roadmap for a legal malpractice claim; and
  • Not taking the time to ensure the legal advice you give is correct.

via Wisconsin Lawyer May 2012: Managing Risk: Lawyers and Social Media: What could possibly go wrong? | State Bar of Wisconsin.

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