Scaring Lawyers Over Social Networking

This post on lawyer’s use of social media does a good job of explaining how social media works in terms of content and distribution.  The author works in Canada which may explain why there is no discussion of the advertising or legal ethics.  However one of the comments proceeds to address the issue of attorney ethics and social media but does so in a way to “scare” attorneys.  Here is a taste of the comment:

The rules that govern lawyers are still too murky and not for the faint of heart.

Actually, the rules that govern lawyers in social media are the same as govern attorneys in traditional media.  Its not the rules that are murky its the application of social media to the rules.  One of the points the commenter makes is that “friend” another attorney can result in “censure.”  The commenter links to this article which discusses Florida’s rule that prohibits a judge from friending an attorney.  A few other states also have rules regarding a judge friending an attorney.  To take the situation where a judge can’t “friend” an attorney and state that the rule is about any attorney “friending” another attorney is a classic case of scare tactics – distorting and amplifying a fact until it becomes untrue.

While its true that its unclear how attorney ethics rules apply to social media in many circumstances, that doesn’t mean that the scariest scenario will apply.  Ethics rules are safeguards for clients and consumers not draconian restrictions on how attorneys can engage in the world.  The more attorneys adopt social media, the easier it will be to determine how ethics rule should apply.

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