The Assignment: Essay Hypothetical

2014 ABA LPL Bert W. Levit Essay Contest - Hypothetical

Sponsored by: ABA Standing Committee on Lawyers' Professional Liability and Long & Levit, LLP

You are the General Counsel for a global law firm—Lawyers Around the World ("LAW"). LAW's Management Committee seeks your recommendations about a firm-wide Social Media Policy. LAW's approximately 500 attorneys, located in the United States and abroad, are becoming increasingly active on all forms of social media, including Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and blogs.

LAW's Management Committee recognizes the need to use social media as a marketing tool, but it is concerned about professionalism and ethical issues presented by its use. In crafting your recommendation, please address these recent issues brought to LAW management's attention:

  • Partner Overshare, a partner located in the United States, has a legal blog where he routinely writes about his cases, providing details about parties, attorneys and sometimes even judges. 
  • Associate Social, an associate located in the United States, has an active Facebook page, on which he posts pictures and comments about his work and social life. He is friends with a number of judges and arbitrators on his Facebook page.
  • Solicitor Victory, a solicitor in London, often takes to his Twitter feed to provide updates about his day—including his professional victories and failures.
  • Associate Marketer, an associate located in Hong Kong, uses his LinkedIn account to endorse other attorneys, and, in return, requests that others "endorse" him.
  • Partner Free Speech, a partner in the United States, has a white-collar criminal defense practice. He represents Ernie Shamedoff, who is accused of engineering a massive Ponzi scheme. In a court filing, Free Speech has detailed Shamedoff's version of events, which accuses his employees, Morton Gain and Patsy Blameless, of crafting and executing the entire scheme. Free Speech touts his high-profile client on LAW's website blog. Although he does not repeat the allegations against Gain and Blameless in his discussion of the case, he provides a link which accesses the online filing. Before Gain and Blameless were able to obtain an order to seal the pleading, it was downloaded thousands of times. Gain and Blameless have filed a defamation and invasion of privacy suit against the firm.

Please prepare a memorandum to LAW's Management Committee with recommendations for the law firm's Social Media Policy. The firm wants to meet its ethical obligations, avoid claims, and use social media tools to market its practice areas. Include any areas of concern for LAW that you anticipate as its General Counsel, and any policies and procedures to minimize those concerns. 

Updated: 11/26/2013