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Social media has made its way into every facet of our lives, and the legal profession is no exception.

The NSW Young Lawyers Communications, Entertainment and Technology Law Committee has prepared a practical guide to the uses and pitfalls of social media for lawyers. The guide, titled The Practitioners Guide to Social Media and the Law, is aimed at all lawyers learning about the intricacies and challenges of practising law in NSW in the digital age and social media era.

Jessica Norgard, Chair of the Communications, Entertainment and Technology Law Committee, said the idea for the guide came from Law Society of NSW Legal Technology Committee members, who felt a guide or cheat sheet around the use of social media would be helpful for lawyers and practitioners. With so many committee members interested in contributing, it morphed into a comprehensive guide across various areas of the law.

The guide covers legal issues around using social media as evidence in litigation and employment frameworks, as well as a guide to copyright infringement, defamation, misleading and deceptive conduct, and crime in a social media context. Norgard said it was full of helpful tips for practising lawyers and for individuals as employees.
“If you’ve had a hard day at work and you post about it on Facebook, you might think what you’ve written is cryptic, but it could have significant consequences,” Norgard said.
“It’s important to be mindful of those things and to make educated, considered choices. Social media is not a private bubble.”
Norgard said it was important for legal professionals to have their say and use social media for their enjoyment, but to be mindful of their audiences.
“The proliferation of social media use seems to be blurring the division between conduct at work and outside of work,” said Norgard. “It’s important to be clear about whether you are acting in your personal or professional capacity, but also to recognise circumstances where this may not be clear. It’s not about censorship, but about being mindful and sensitive to context.”
The guide comes as defamation laws in Australia may be about to change dramatically, as the NSW government commits to a statewide review of defamation laws. Attorney-General Mark Speakman announced the review in March as legal experts pointed to a dramatic increase in social media cases hitting the courts.
“The key takeaway from this publication is that the application of these areas of law do not simply become irrelevant when it comes to social media,” said managing editor of the guide, Eva Lu.

“In fact, as a result of the immediacy and greater reach of social media, application and effect of some of these areas of laws has become much more significant and amplified. Take the recent developments in defamation law and privacy, for instance.”
An electronic version of the guide is available on the NSW Young Lawyers website.