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Social networks carry ethical risks, lawyers told

Lawyers had better understand the nature and usefulness of social media, or so says the New York State Bar Association. According to a new legal ethics guidelines report produced by the NYSBA, a lawyer should have a certain awareness of the pros and cons in the usage of social media.

The guidelines are not rules, and as such, are not mandatory, but the report, updated and distributed June 9, does posit that a successful lawyer needs to be keenly adept in how to use social media.

“Social media networks… are becoming indispensable tools used by legal professionals and those with whom they communicate,” the report states.

Conversely, a lawyer must also know the risks of social media, and that includes abiding by ethical rules across jurisdictions when using social media, “Lawyers should ensure compliance with the ethical requirements of each jurisdiction in which they practice, which may vary considerably.”

The report also considers the unintended consequences of a lawyer’s using social media and the violations that could occur.

“When a lawyer conducts research, unintended social media communications or electronic notifications received by the user of a social media account revealing such lawyer’s research may have ethical consequences.”

There is also a murkiness surrounding some of regulations pertaining to a lawyer’s social media communications, and according to the report, “it is not always readily apparent” if a lawyer’s communications on social media constitute “regulated attorney advertising.”

Read the full report here.