Attorneys And Social Media
Helen Gunnarsson’s article Friending Your Enemies, Tweeting Your Trials: Using Social Media Ethically (one of the articles in the October publication of the Illinois Bar Journal) caught my eye for a couple reasons: 1) because it features DLA Piper attorney Erin E. Wright of Chicago, a classmate of mine from law school, and 2) because it drives home the importance of the sometimes awkward relationship between lawyers and their social media of choice. Facebook and Twitter have been making ripples in discovery circles for a long time, but the ripples are getting bigger: the Illinois State Bar Association President John G. Locallo points out that “[i]f Facebook were a nation, it would be the third largest in the world. Do I have your attention yet?” Add to this the fact that Facebook has formed a political action committee in advance of the 2012 elections, and that the company has spent in excess of $730,000 this year in federal lobbying activities. Yes, you have our attention.  

Gunnarsson’s article does a nice job of outlining the areas in which attorneys have run afoul of their ethical obligations via tweet including revealing client confidences (regardless of the termination of the attorney client relationship), communications including advertising, and approaching unrepresented individuals online.  The need to create an active, dynamic, searchable online presence can be a devious motivator. Wright makes a case for the “golden rule” of ethical social media usage: “[w]hen in doubt, leave it out.” She points out that the exclusion of information, private or public, related to client matters doesn’t equate to a dull online presence. An offering of in-depth analysis can be a strong hook—“Write globally about a legal issue, leaving out specific facts about your clients… Provide information that might be helpful to others. Link to interesting articles, including your own.”

Well said, and we’ll take your advice with a link to your article here.

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