The practice of law constantly changes. Despite the technological changes, it remains remarkably similar to how we practiced 10, 30, or even 50 years ago. Although computers, smartphones, and social media didn’t exist when many of us passed the bar exam, neither did MRIs or other medical tests, and they didn’t prevent doctors from changing.
Consider email, whose rise in popularity was highlighted by the phrase, “You’ve Got Mail,” which even became a popular movie. Eventually, lawyers began to embrace this method of communicating. Next came the Internet, which begat websites, Google, smartphones, and, eventually, social media. Yes, social media, those massively popular websites where people—including clients and lawyers—gossip and reveal their deepest secrets.
Gossip has existed since man could talk, and will endure long after Facebook goes the way of MySpace and Friendster and other previously “hot” websites. But for lawyers trying to contain the damage from rash, thoughtless, or spiteful comments or postings by clients (or the lawyers themselves), social media creates new challenges: How can lawyers limit the spread of important client-related information on social media? Fortunately, the American Bar Association Center for Professional Responsibility, and numerous state and local bar ethics committees have issued ethical guidance to help lawyers understand the obligations that arise with social media. From those opinions, I offer the following 12 tips gleaned from that guidance (remember to review the opinions from jurisdictions where you are licensed to confirm that they agree with these opinions):