Social Media and Ethics for Lawyers


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The use of social media for Lawyers has many ethical implications. This presentation was presented to the 2011 Family Law Section MidYear meeting on June 17, 2011. Visit our social media blog at

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Social Media and Ethics for Lawyers

  1. 1. Ethical Issues Arising from the Use of Technology<br />Philip C. Tsai, Esq.<br />Hon. Michael P. Price<br />June 17th, 2011<br />
  2. 2. Social Media<br />Lawyer Websites<br />Listserv<br />Cloud Computing<br />Ethical Issues <br />
  3. 3. “Interaction with external websites or services based on participant contributions to the content. Types of social media include blogs, micro blogs, social and professional networks, video or photo sharing, and social bookmarking”.<br />What is Social Media?<br />
  4. 4. Facebook<br />Twitter<br />MySpace<br />YouTube<br />LinkedIn<br />Avvo<br />Blogs<br />RSS Feeds<br />Social Media <br />
  5. 5. A lawyer shall provide competent representation to a client. Competent representation requires the legal knowledge, skill, thoroughness and preparation reasonably necessary for the representation. <br />RPC 1.1 Competence <br />
  6. 6. To maintain the requisite knowledge and skill, a lawyer should keep abreast of changes in the law and its practice, engage in continuing study and education and comply with all continuing legal education requirements to which the lawyer is subject. <br />Comment 6 to RPC 1.1<br />
  7. 7. A lawyer shall act with reasonable diligence and promptness in representing a client. <br />RPC 1.3 Diligence <br />
  8. 8. Over 500,000,000 Facebook Users <br />Over 200,000,000 Use with Mobile Phone<br />Number of Facebook Users<br />
  9. 9. AAML reports an 81% increase in the use of Social Media Websites as evidence in Family Law Cases<br />66% report that Facebook is the primary source<br />AAML Statistics<br />
  10. 10. A lawyer shall not reveal information relating to the representation of a client unless the client gives informed consent, the disclosure is impliedly authorized in order to carry out the representation or the disclosure is permitted by paragraph (b). …<br />RPC 1.6 Confidentiality<br />
  11. 11. Venting on Social Media may have Consequences <br />If Information Posted on Internet, may be Permanent<br />Example of Breach of Confidentiality<br />Risks of Revealing Location<br />Issues with Confidentiality<br />
  12. 12. Pretexting<br />Philadelphia Opinion2009-02<br />RPC 5.1 Non Lawyer Assistants<br />RPC 8.4 Misconduct<br />RPC 4.1 Truthfulness in Statements to Others<br />Acquisition/Preservation of Evidence<br />
  13. 13. A lawyer shall not: <br />(a) unlawfully obstruct another party's access to evidence or unlawfully alter, destroy or conceal a document or other material having potential evidentiary value. A lawyer shall not counsel or assist another person to do any such act; <br />RPC 3.4(a) Fairness to Opposing Party and Counsel<br />
  14. 14. RPC 7.1 Communication Concerning Lawyer’s Services<br />RPC 7.2 Advertising<br />RPC 7.3 Direct Contact with Prospective Clients<br />RPC 1.6 Confidentiality<br />Lawyer Advertising and Social Media <br />
  15. 15. (a) Subject to the requirements of Rules 7.1 and 7.3, a lawyer may advertise services through written, recorded or electronic communication, including public media. <br />RPC 7.2 Advertising<br />
  16. 16. A lawyer shall not make a false or misleading communication about the lawyer or the lawyer's services. A communication is false or misleading if it contains a material misrepresentation of fact or law, or omits a fact necessary to make the statement considered as a whole not materially misleading. <br />RPC 7.1 Communication Concerning a Lawyer’s Services<br />
  17. 17. Contact Information<br />Area of Practice<br />Increased Ability to Reach Potential Clients<br />Ease of Publication<br />More Legal Content on Website<br />Lawyer Websites<br />
  18. 18. RPC 1.6 Confidentiality<br />Use of Hypotheticals<br />RPC 7.3 Direct Contact with Prospective Clients <br />Electronic Mailing Lists (Listserv)<br />
  19. 19. Davis v. York Int’l Corp., 1993 LEXIS 7173 (1993)<br />Lawyer to Lawyer Consultation<br />Lawyer to Non Lawyer Consultation<br />Establishment of Attorney-Client Relationship<br />
  20. 20. Unauthorized Practice of Law<br />Potential Waiver of Work Product Doctrine<br />Ex Parte Communications with Judiciary<br />Other Ethical Issues<br />
  21. 21. Remote Electronic Data Storage on the Internet (“In the Cloud”)<br />SaaS (Software as a Service)<br />Cloud Computing and Storage<br />
  22. 22. RPC 1.15A Safeguarding Property<br />RPC 1.6 Confidentiality<br />Ethical Rules and Cloud Computing<br />