- Lawyers should be careful to ensure that their social media usage does not breach their professional obligations.
- Firms should carefully consider the use of social media and implement policies, practices and procedures to minimise risks.
A growing number of lawyers are turning to platforms like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and blogs to promote their practices and themselves. While social media can provide lawyers with new opportunities, there are inherent professional and ethical risks.
Lawyers posting work-related comments on Facebook run the risk of breaching the duty not to disclose confidential information acquired during a client engagement (Legal Profession Uniform Law Australian Solicitors’ Conduct Rules 2015) r 9.1 (‘Conduct Rules’)).
No significant cases have arisen in Australia to date, but it is still prudent to take heed of some examples of social media misue by lawyers in the United States. In In the Matter of Peshek No. 6201779, Comm. No. 09 CH 89 (Aug 25, 2009) (Peshek), an Illinois disciplinary tribunal recommended that an assistant public defender be disbarred after she discussed her cases on her blog. In the process, she breached her obligation of confidentiality to her client and made comments about the judiciary that were found to be prejudicial to the administration of justice. In In re Skinner Ga, No. S13Y0105 (3 August 2013), the Georgia Supreme Court found that a lawyer who revealed confidential information about a former client when responding to negative online reviews by that client should be subject to sanction.