Saturday, July 23, 2011

Facebook and Legal Practice: Legal and Ethical Issues

Kathleen Vinson has published an important article on the impact of Facebook and other social media on the practice of law. The Blurred Boundaries of Social Networking in the Legal Field: Just 'Face' It, 41 University of Memphis Law Review 355 (2010). Her major conceptual point is that we use social media in both our personal and professional worlds, and the unclear boundary between these two uses canlead to legal and ethical problems. Here is the abstract:

A lawyer gets a third party to "friend" an adverse witness; a judge "friends" defense counsel during a trial; a juror posts a poll on Facebook regarding the outcome of the case; a litigant boasts on Facebook about how much money he anticipates recovering from his lawsuit; a lawyer vents on Facebook about judges, clients, and opposing counsel; photos of a defendant on Facebook show him taking drugs and holding a weapon; and photos on Facebook show a lawyer partying during the week when he was granted a continuance due to an alleged death in his family. Indeed, Facebook can be a treasure trove of information, not only for those with whom users intend to share, but also to unintended audiences. This article explores how the pervasive use of Facebook plays a role in the legal field, puts a spin on old legal issues, and creates new ones. The article examines how the relationship between social networking and members of the legal community continues to evolve, and blur the boundaries between personal and professional worlds, creating legal and ethical minefields. The article provides guidance regarding how to navigate these minefields, beginning in law school and continuing throughout the legal profession.


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