Social Media and The Legal World: How Much is Too Much Sharing?
Lawyers are constantly hearing about the importance of having a strong online presence to enhance brand awareness, build reputation and connect with potential clients. But what about other members of the court? Are judges, jury members, plaintiffs, defendants and court officers encouraged – or even allowed – to use social media and other online resources during a trial?
Since there are not many existing laws regarding social media use during legal proceedings, many cases of questionable use are receiving national attention.
In early 2013, a Florida judge’s ethics were called into question when it was discovered he was Facebook friends with the parents of a victim of an alleged crime that he saw trial over. A committee on judicial ethics later ruled there was nothing “inherently inappropriate” about judges using social networks, but also cautioned that legal professionals should be cautious of who they connect with online.
In a previous incident involving a Staten Island judge, several lawyers whom the judge attempted to connect with on Facebook complained his actions were inappropriate given their professional roles in the courtroom.
When it comes to lawyers and social media, all it takes is common sense:
- Keep your posts strictly professional
- Never assume ANY online communication is private
- Don’t share personal information or opinions that could suggest bias
- Never disclose details of a pending lawsuit or case
The same rules apply to your clients. Many victims are angry, frustrated and looking for answers – and turn to the Internet. Although there is a wealth of helpful information available through social media, any information posted by a client could be used by an insurance company or the guilty party’s attorney to attempt to disprove their injury or illness. Something as simple as a photo of a day at the beach or a shopping trip could crumble your entire case.
Make sure clients know to stay away from social media during the legal process and only discuss their case with their lawyer and trusted medical professionals.
More than 56% of Americans, including 55% of peopled aged 45-54, have profiles on social networking sites and 22% of those people update social media several times a day. With the widespread use of mobile devices, tablets and laptops, most people don’t even realize how connected they truly are – and aren’t aware of the permanence of everything they post online.