Social media technology can often cause attorneys great consternation -- it seems overwhelming and fraught with ethical minefields. Attorneys may feel panic at the thought of the many pitfalls surrounding privacy and confidentiality. It may even seem unnecessary and possibly not worth the time to learn.
For better or worse, however, attorneys cannot afford to put their heads in the sand when it comes to social media. As the ABA has noted, attorneys need to understand how social media works in order to competently represent their clients.
In 2012, the ABA amended Model Rule 1.1, Comment 8 on Maintaining Competence so that it reads:
"To maintain the requisite knowledge and skill, a lawyer should keep abreast of changes in the law and its practice, including the benefits and risks associated with relevant technology, engage in continuing study and education and comply with all continuing legal education requirements to which the lawyer is subject."
For example, more and more courts are allowing discovery into social media accounts, regardless of whether the accounts are public or private, so it is becoming increasingly imperative that attorneys not only understand how social media works, but also how to conduct their own research on the various sites.
Additionally, social media can benefit a law practice in other ways. It is a unique way for attorneys to interact with others, establish themselves in their field of practice, and may help increase overall online visibility.
One resource to help in getting up to speed on this topic is FindLaw's Social Media for Attorneys Mini-Guide, which is a collection of tips offered by our writers on a variety of social media issues, organized into one short downloadable pdf.
The Guide sets forth the following eight concerns that many attorneys have when it comes to social media, and provides information so that attorneys can overcome these hurdles:
- How is social media even relevant to a law practice?
- What aspects of social media should be on your radar?
- Where do you begin?
- With so many different types of social media, what is important to learn about for each one?
- There are not enough hours in the day to run a law practice. How in the world can a practicing attorney have time for social media?
- In a world where so many things go viral, what if I make a mistake?
- What are my ethical obligations when it comes to social media?
- What else should I be thinking about?
Ethical pitfalls abound in this area. Attorneys would be wise to arm themselves with the necessary information so that they can competently represent their clients and best use social media to help their law practice. This Guide is one resource to help you get started on your journey.