Oct 21, 2015

Socializing Ethically

Social media has become an increasingly prevalent aspect of everyday life, permeating into the legal community. Young lawyers in particular have grown up using social media, numbing them to some of the potential professional pitfalls it poses within the legal community. The transition into the workplace has skewed the lines between what is socially acceptable as opposed to professionally ethical. With increasingly overlapping uses, here are some things attorneys should think about when utilizing social media.

 1. Know Your Jurisdiction’s Rules on Advertising

What you post on social media may qualify as advertising under your jurisdiction’s ethics rules, subjecting certain information posted on your profile subject to restrictions on advertising. For example, the New York State Bar Association’s litigation section recently released Social Media and Ethics Guidelines which noted that a lawyer’s LinkedIn profile will likely constitute advertising through the skills, areas of practice endorsements, or testimonials. The guidelines also note that an attorney should not identify himself as a specialist on social media pages, unless certified as such. Similarly, the Florida Supreme Court revamped the state rules on attorney advertising to explicitly include social networking in what is considered advertising1, and California Ethics Opinion 2012-1862 explicitly noted the state’s lawyer advertising rules apply to lawyer’s social media pages. Even sites such as LinkedIn may lead to false advertising under your state’s rule, particularly when people begin endorsing and recommending you for particular areas of law, which you may not focus on in your practice.

2. Don’t Get Overly Judge-y

While in-person networking and interaction with judges is expected in the legal profession, the same may not be permitted when it comes to social media. Jurisdictions take vastly different approaches to a lawyer’s social media interactions with the judiciary. ABA Formal Opinion 462 determined that judges may participate in online networking, as long as the interactions comply with the judicial code of conduct. In contrast, one jurisdiction has gone so far as to prohibit lawyers from “friending” judges whom they may appear before. Before accepting the friend request, it is best to know where your state stands on those types of interactions, erring on the side of caution.

3. Remember Your Prior Relationship

ABA Model Rule 7.3, and any local equivalent, may apply to social media content, restricting direct contact with prospective clients. Social networks, such as Twitter, provide instantaneous access to potential clients who require legal services, tempting an immediate response to secure your next client. While tempting, you may ultimately violate your jurisdiction’s rules on client solicitation by immediately volunteering your services. Before replying to those tempting needs, evaluate whether you have the requisite prior relationship with that person to solicit their business.

1) In re Amendments to Rules Regulating the Florida Bar--Subchapter 4-7, Lawyer Adver. Rules, 108 So. 3d 609 (Fla. 2013)

Click to read full article in ABA Newsletter

Andrew J. Baer professional liability attorneyAndrew J. Baer is an attorney with Deutsch Kerrigan, LLP in New Orleans, Louisiana. Andrew’s practice focuses on commercial litigation and professional liability.





written by:
Andrew J. Baer
504 593 0604