Earlier this month, the New York State Bar Association released its updated Social Media Ethics Guidelines, based on its belief that, “As use of social media by lawyers and clients continues to grow and as social media networks proliferate and become more sophisticated, so too do the ethical issues facing lawyers.”
My friend Kevin O’Keefe at LexBlog received a courtesy copy of the new guidelines and blogged about his reaction to them here.
I agree with many of Kevin’s points, chief among them his questioning the need for more ethics guidelines every time technology or society advances. Lawyers know the rules for ethical behavior. It stands to reason if you can’t do something here, then you shouldn’t do it there. If you’re not allowed to advertise your results in a print ad or on a billboard, then the same should apply for websites and social media. Do we really need special rules every time a new mode of communication is introduced?
The NY Bar guidelines go further, however, than extending existing ethics rules to social media. They now seek to require attorneys to “be conversant with, at a minimum, the basics of each social media network that a lawyer or his or her client may use.”
Take a look at this Wikipedia list of major active social networking websites and see how many of these you feel you are “conversant with.”
Hopefully, you do know the basics of the social media networks you are already on — but what about those your clients are on? You have a mom for a client? Maybe she is on CafeMom. Have a client who loves to read? Maybe they’re on LibraryThing. Got a client who’s into video games? Better get conversant with Raptr! See how silly this can get….
As they say in the Ginsu knife commercial: But wait, there’s more…
Recently, the Florida Courts Technology Commission told attorneys that they are responsible for stripping all the metadata from e-filed documents to protect their clients from potential identity theft.
Florida attorneys were already required to strip off any personal identifying information — account numbers and the like — from client documents submitted through the Florida court system’s e-filing system. However, this information still exists in the file’s metadata — and when that file is posted online as required by the state Supreme Court, it’s fair game for scammers and thieves.
Court clerks have also submitted a proposal to the FCTC that would require attorneys to indemnify them if an attorney fails to identify any confidential information and it is accidentally made public.
The FCTC has recommended the addition of a notice to the e-filing system that states, “Warning: Removal of document metadata is the responsibility of the filer. Any document metadata remaining may become part of the public record.”
That warning would include a link to a YouTube video that explains what metadata is and how to remove it.
You are conversant with YouTube, aren’t you?