4 30 12 Cardozo Social Media Ethics CLE


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The slides from my 4/30/12 CLE presentation at Cardozo School of Law in New York City.

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4 30 12 Cardozo Social Media Ethics CLE

  1. 1. SOCIAL MEDIAAND LEGAL ETHICS Prof. Jonathan I. Ezor Touro Law Center jezor@tourolaw.edu @ProfJonathan on Twitter Cardozo CLE April 30, 2012
  2. 2. Electronic Communications Crucial for All Businesspeople• Multiple channels of electronic business communication – E-mail – Text messages – Web sites – Videoconferencing – Social media – Others• Can be one-way, two-way or multipoint jezor@tourolaw.edu
  3. 3. Common Challenges of Electronic Business Communication• Addressing and attachment errors• Lack of nuance & tone• Heightened expectations of responsiveness• Informality• Compliance• Management jezor@tourolaw.edu
  4. 4. Attorneys’ Ethical Obligations Add to Challenges• Rules of Professional Conduct impact on attorney communication• Lawyers must ensure compliance with those as well as with good business practices• Confidentiality biggest potential breach jezor@tourolaw.edu
  5. 5. Concluding Paragraph from ABA Technology Proposal• Technology can increase the quality of legal services, reduce the cost of legal services to existing clients, and enable lawyers to represent clients who might not otherwise have been able to afford those services. Lawyers, however, need to understand that technology can pose certain risks to clients’ confidential information and that reasonable safeguards are ethically required. The Commission’s proposals are designed to help lawyers understand these risks so that they can take appropriate and reasonable measures when taking advantage of technology’s many benefits…. jezor@tourolaw.edu
  6. 6. “Adopting” A Listing• Ok, but beware of issues like those discussed in SC Ethics Advisory Op. 09-10 – The lawyer must monitor the “claimed” listing to make sure all comments are in conformity with the ethical rules, especially the rules for attorney advertising writing of things like testimonials and client endorsements that create unjustified expectations, and comparisons• Be careful when linking to another site! jezor@tourolaw.edu
  7. 7. Recommendations• LinkedIn allows parties to “recommend” the work of a another participant. Issues?• What about asking a client to recommend your work? jezor@tourolaw.edu
  8. 8. Recommendations• Be mindful of rules that place limitations on the use and content of testimonials• Model Rule 4.1 (duty of candor) prohibits the making of a false statement of material fact to a third person – Beware of possible exaggerations regarding your biography, experience, etc.• What about asking a Judge to recommend you?• What about announcing on Facebook or LinkedIn that you just won a big jury trial or negotiated a big deal? jezor@tourolaw.edu
  9. 9. Recommendations• Depending on the rules in your jurisdiction, this could require you to add a disclaimer along the lines of “results will vary in each case” or similar language• A related issue, depending on the content of your blogs or tweets – Could they be governed by your state’s restrictions on lawyer advertising? – If so, what are your obligations? jezor@tourolaw.edu
  10. 10. Recommendations• LinkedIn allows users to provide professional information under “specialties.” Are there any issues with that? jezor@tourolaw.edu
  11. 11. Recommendations• Depending on the content, it could run afoul of bar rules, such as NY Rule 7.4(a), that prohibit attorneys from claiming they are “specialists” in a certain field• Any other risks in posting information about your matters? jezor@tourolaw.edu
  12. 12. Lying To A Tribunal• Model Rule 3.3 prohibits attorneys from making a false statement of fact to a tribunal• New connections via social media provide “channels” for discovery of such statements jezor@tourolaw.edu
  13. 13. Investigative Issues• How is it being used? – Employment background check? – Information about opposing counsel? Judge? – Information about parties? Witnesses? Jurors?• Front page article in The Washington Post (May 29, 2010) about the increasing use of subpoenas to obtain information from social networking sites jezor@tourolaw.edu
  14. 14. CPLR §4506
  15. 15. Friending Issues• In most jurisdictions, a judge and attorney who appears before the judge can be “friends”; e.g. New York: jezor@tourolaw.edu
  16. 16. Other States’ Ethics Opinions on Friending• Permissible: – SC Op. 17-2009 (2009) – Ky. Op. JE-119 (2010) – Ohio Op. 2010-7 (Dec. 3, 2010)• But NOT in Florida, Op. 2009-20 (2009) – A judge cannot lend the prestige of her office to advance the private interests of others or convey an impression that some are in a special position of influence jezor@tourolaw.edu
  17. 17. Friending Issues• Other friending issues with judges? – In re Public Reprimand of Terry, Inquiry No. 08- 234 (Apr. 1, 2009) – http://www.aoc.state.nc.us/www/public/coa/jsc/ publicreprimands/jsc08-234.pdf – N.C. child custody and support case • Judge friended defense counsel and saw information posted by the defense counsel about the case – Asking how he could prove the negative that his client did not have an affair – Noting that he had a wise judge (to which the judge responded that he had two very good parents to choose from) – Asking how long the trial would last jezor@tourolaw.edu
  18. 18. Friending Issues• Other issues with respect to whom an attorney can friend? – Opposing counsel? – Parties to a dispute in which you are counsel? – Witnesses in an active case jezor@tourolaw.edu
  19. 19. “Fake” User Profiles• An attorney was reprimanded because he hid his real identity and posed as a teacher and posted on classmates.com that another teacher had engaged in sex with students – In re Carpenter, 95 P.3d 203 (Or. 2004)• Fake patient profiles in the healthcare space jezor@tourolaw.edu
  20. 20. Blogging And Other Interactive Media• LinkedIn allows users to post and answer questions; bloggers and tweeters often address legal issues; and sites like “Counsel.net” and Quora allow users to seek answers to legal questions• This is a particularly risky area. Any issues? jezor@tourolaw.edu
  21. 21. Conflicts Of Interest• With whom are you communicating? – What if it is with a party with an adverse interest to a client of the firm? (Model Rules 1.7, 4.2)• Other issues? jezor@tourolaw.edu
  22. 22. Inadvertent Creation Of An Attorney-Client Relationship• The discussion could lead to a situation where a “prospective” client relationship is formed, which has several consequences• Must keep that information confidential (Model Rule 1.18)• Obtaining this confidential information could lead to disqualification with respect to existing clients who would have an interest in knowing that information jezor@tourolaw.edu
  23. 23. Inadvertent Creation Of An Attorney-Client Relationship• An organization needs a well-considered policy to address these issues, including: – Use a disclaimer (“general informational purposes”), but how do you do that with Tweets? – Do not post confidential information – Restrict recipients, followers, etc.• Very little risk with passive review, but the more interactive, the more dangerous – Contact with represented party – Do not discuss subject matter of your cases! jezor@tourolaw.edu
  24. 24. Inadvertent Creation Of An Attorney-Client Relationship• Depending on the circumstances, this could run afoul of rules prohibiting the unlicensed practice of law – or it could inadvertently create an attorney-client relationship• An organization needs a good policy to address these issues – things to consider – Keep it general – Restrict recipients – Use a disclaimer (“general informational purposes”) – Do not post confidential information jezor@tourolaw.edu
  25. 25. Lawyers (and LawStudents) Tweeting Badly
  26. 26. Remember: How and Why Not• Twitter is public; remember that all, not just followers, may see/search your tweets• Library of Congress, Topsy.com archiving all tweets (even deleted ones)• Jurors, clients, judges and colleagues can/will follow you• Many horror stories of accidental disclosures, embarrassments; can impact on career and reputation• Be a good example jezor@tourolaw.edu
  27. 27. Key Question is Why?• Media sees Twitter as celebrity hangout, text message alternative (“Having eggs for breakfast”)• True but only one side of story• “Other” Twitter is tremendous business/knowledge resource• Blogs are great model: links, opinions and discussions• Ideal is to provide as well as receive value jezor@tourolaw.edu
  28. 28. Conclusion• Beware of advertising issues• Be careful with judicial relationships• Avoid deception and act transparently• Keep confidences confidential• Establish and follow a policy for interactive contact jezor@tourolaw.edu
  29. 29. Knowledge, Policies and Procedures Must Work Together To Minimize Risks• Adequate funding of IT staff, including training• Make sure attorneys and support staff given proper education• Set up systems with legal practice concerns in mind• Keep up with legal trade press, ethics opinions jezor@tourolaw.edu
  30. 30. QUESTIONS?