Posts Tagged ‘social networking ethics’

Speaking on social networking ethics @ ACBA

January 15, 2011

Next Wednesday, Jan 19th,  is MCLE day for Alameda County Bar Association attorneys and I will be speaking on social networking and legal ethics.

What’s next on social networking ethics for attorneys?

One of my topics will be the need to clarify a couple fuzzy areas.  First, is how attorneys should proceed in “friending, connecting, linking” to clients or potential clients.  There are ethical considerations here but it depends upon the nature of practice, the nature of the relationship, how clear it is that the client and attorney have a client relationship and aren’t just business associates or friends.

Second, whether clients can recommend attorneys on LinkedIn and other social media websites where there is no opportunity for the attorney to place a disclaimer on the page that a positive outcome in this case is not a prediction of success for the viewer in his or her potential case.

Unsolicited Confidential Info – What to Do?

January 2, 2011

This article contains a hypothetical where a fired employee of a big warehouse store, sends an attachment with his correspondence with the company’s HR rep to all the attorneys he can who allow potential clients to email them directly.  If one of those attorneys represents the store, does the attorney who received the email and the file, have a duty to keep that information confidential?

The answer generally is “yes” and “no.”  Yes, if the attorney provides no disclaimer on their website warning potential clients that information sent to the attorney will not be treated as confidential.  No, if the attorney’s disclaimer is positioned where the potential client can clearly read it and that its written in plain English.  It should say “no information provide via this contact from will be treated as confidential.”  Do not say, “an attorney client relationship doesn’t apply to any correspondence sent via this contact form.”  For a layperson that doesn’t directly address the confidentiality issue.”

What if you provide a disclaimer page with lots of indecipherable legalese?  Good luck.

KY Bar: Calls Out Social Media in Proposed Regs.

November 24, 2010

Here is the link to the article I posted in my group “Lawyers who Tweet” about the Kentucky Bar’s proposed regulation of social media.   And here is the text of the proposed rules.

Two thoughts:

  • How can the Kentucky Bar Association single out “social media” from other kinds of Internet activity?  The amendment blithely mentions that non-legal comments on social media websites such as Facebook” and MySpace won’t be subject to advertising regulations.  What about LinkedIn?  Is that also considered a social networking website where comments will be regulated?
  • Its seems to me that regulating “comments” goes to the heart of First Amendment protection.  Advertisements are static communications that reach a broad audience while comments are situational and may only reach on person or very few.  This regulation seems designed to “chill” speech by making attorneys wary of posting anything on a social networking site, afraid it might be construed as advertising.

ABA evaluating social networking ethics rules

November 2, 2010

The ABA Commission on Ethics has come out with a working paper that outlines issues related to social networking.  Already its garner a rather vehement response from Larry Bodine who sees it as a threat to lawyers ability to engage in social networking.

I don’t see it that way.  I think its important that strong, thoughtful, useful guidelines be established for attorney use of social networking so that those who are reluctant to engage and those who have engage but are nervous can feel assured that there is clarity going forward on this issues.

Make sure you comment!  I will.

Ethical use of LinkedIn – really?

June 22, 2010

This article is entitled, “How Lawyers can use LinkedIn for ethical marketing purposes.” One of its key recommendations is for attorneys to invite new or prospective clients to connect with them on LinkedIn. The article doesn’t mention any of the ethical risks involved in such an effort.  So here are thing I think you should consider if/when sending out such invitations:

1. Do you practice law in a sensitive area like bankruptcy, divorce, taxes? If so, your clients might not want it known that they are “connected” with you even if its not clear they are your clients.

2.  Safely connecting with clients. If you want to reach out and connect with your clients but you want them to be confident that no one will know they know you, then you can tell them that you lock-down your contacts’ identities so no one will see who you know.  This begs the question however, exactly what is the benefit for either your client or you to connect in this way on LinkedIn.  The service is primarily a referral network platform.  If contacts aren’t shared, this aspect of the service loses a significant portion of  its value.

3.  What if you have a policy where you don’t connect with client on LinkedIn and a client send you an invitation? Then you need to have a polite and positive response which outlines how its important to you to safeguard your clients privacy and you simply don’t believe connecting on LinkedIn is worth the risk.

Bottom line: I don’t believe in hard and fast rules about inviting clients to connect through LinkedIn.  There are plenty of benefits and if both you and your client are comfortable with publicizing the connection, then go for it.  However, one size doesn’t fit all when it comes to client relationships and confidentiality.  Its important that attorneys understand the risks and act responsibly in tackling them.

Social networking & attorney ethics – new venue

April 20, 2010

Robert Teuber, a tax and business attorney in Wisconsin recently gave a talk about attorney social networking and ethics.  He argues that social networking doesn’t create ethical dilemmas per se but that it does provide a new “venue” for such violations to occur.

I agree with that and will explain how that is the case in a talk I’m giving this Friday at the Stanislaus County Bar Association.