Social media has creeped slowly but surely into the legal professional world. In 2012 the International Bar Association felt it necessary to release a 40 page document revealing their finding in a mass survey of legal professionals around the world about the knowledge, acceptance and opinions legal professionals had about the use of social media.
The majority of legal professionals feel that social media has presented a whole new bucket of challenges, many are concerned about maintaining the professionalism. Many companies feel their first step before even using social media should be to establish rules on how it will be used by those in the firm. The American Bar Association
Copyrights and Fair use- Companies need to make sure their employees understand how to properly redistribute someones online work, they need to know how to properly use an excerpt and give attribution so they don’t lead to copyright violations.
Confidentiality is another huge concern that professionals have when it comes to the use of social media. Attorneys must be super cautious not to discuss any confidential matters via any social media platform as it could easily be hacked. This could be extremely detrimental to a case and a firm reputation. Steve Teppler, a co-chair of the ABA Discovery and Digital Evidence Committee talks about some of the social media concerns in an ABA journal article. He says a lot of attorneys use Dropbox to store information, which is dangerous since their terms of service say that if they receives a legal inquiry they can chose to release your information. Having confidential client information released could lead to serious problems.
Social media posts are commonly used as evidence. Posts on social media can display positive or negative character flaws of someone, prove or disprove where someone was at a certain time as well as show who other are affiliated with. People often don’t realize the great amount of information they give away without thinking on social media. In 2012, Joshua Meregildo of New York, had his Facebook privacy settings set so only his “friends” could see what he put on his page. The Government was able to use a cooperating witness who was one his “friends” to obtain incriminating evidence against him and gain probable cause. While Joshua fought tried to fight the court in how the Government was able to obtain the information the judge held that “he had no justifiable expectation that his “friends” would keep his profile private.”
In this video an attorney discusses how social media can negatively impact a family law case.
Yet another concern for attorneys is the slippery slope of what constitutes practicing law. They must be careful of the type of questions they are answering online as not to establish an attorney-client relationship. This gets complicated when attorneys do blogs or Q&A’s online.
Defamation is defined as any intentional false communication, either written or spoken, that harms a persons reputation; decreases the respect, regard or confidence in which a person is held or induces disparaging, hostile or disagreeable feelings or opinions against a person. Cases are on the rise involving defamation and social media. A woman in Virginia was sued for $75,000 by her contractor after posting a negative review about his company on Yelp, that he argued was defamatory. Luckily for social media companies they protected by the Communications Decency Act of 1996, which doesn’t hold them liable for comments made by third parties.