Is Online Activity Likely to Lead to Lawyer Misbehavior?

 Post by Randall Ryder

More and more lawyers are getting in trouble for things they have done online. Are lawyers asking for sanctions by posting comments online?

A recent article points out a number of situations where lawyers have been negatively effected (including sanctions) by their online activities. One lawyer was punished for abusing his position to pursue investigations against people who posted negative comments about him online. Other lawyers may utilize the internet to comment on open cases, comment on judges, or talk trash about clients. 

Social media, like Facebook and Twitter, are also invitations to danger for attorneys. Depending on privacy settings, attorneys may be posting things they think are private, when in fact, they are on display to the public. Depending on the topic of conversation, weighing in with an opinion can be a huge mistake. Facebook photos also present a unique opportunity to memorialize things to the public. 

This type of behavior is strange, given that lawyers are trained to be risk-adverse, and to think carefully before saying (or typing anything). Something about the internet, however, seems to make lawyers feel that they can say anything and not deal with the consequences. The problem, of course, is that the internet freezes comments or conversations…they do not just end when the conversation ends.

Does this mean that lawyers should post anything online? No, but they should be careful about what they write. For one, think before you type, and reread what you wrote before hitting "send" or "post." Another way to think of it is that online activity is like meeting people you do not know. Do not talk about your religious beliefs, your political beliefs, etc. Try and refrain from making bold opinionated statements. As noted, the danger is that things posted on the internet, stay on the internet. 

If you hesitate before sending or posting something, that is a clear sign it should not be posted. No point is worth making if it will endanger your reputation and career as an attorney. A more radical option is to simply delete your Facebook account, or not post any updates to it. You can still be on Facebook without posting your opinion everyday.

In other words, just be careful, and think before you type.

Risk-Averse Lawyers Surf Net Into Stormy Ethical Seas | ABA Journal


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