Social media is the epicenter of today’s society. However, attorneys must consider ethical rules governing their practice prior to engaging on social media. On March 17, 2021, Vertitext Legal Solutions hosted a CLE guided by Michael Murray which addressed social media, discovery, ethics, evidence, and sanctions.
Additionally, the American Bar Association’s Model Rules of Professional Conduct indirectly address the use of social media. Rule 1.6 (Confidentiality of Information); Rule 4.1 (Truthfulness in Statements to Others); Rule 5.3 (Responsibility Regarding Non-lawyer Assistant); and Rule 8.4 (Misconduct). A few specific guidelines come out of the interpretation of these rules and their applicability to attorney’s use of social media.
Here are a few considerations for attorneys as they navigate the murky crossover between ethical rules and social media usage.
- Attorneys may not contact a represented person through social networking websites.
- Attorneys may not contact a party or witness by pretext, for example by creating a fake account or having a paralegal reach out.
- Attorneys may not reveal confidential information in response to negative online reviews without a client’s informed consent. Thus, responses should be proportional and restrained.
- Attorneys may contact unrepresented persons through social networking websites but may not use a pretextual basis for viewing otherwise private information on those websites.
- Attorneys may connect with judges on social networking websites provided the purpose is not to influence judges in carrying out their official duties.