Friday, April 21, 2017

Social Media and Legal Ethics

Another presenter at the Scribes CLE program at the Oklahoma City University School of Law was attorney 20170421_161713John Browning of Passman & Jones P.C., in Dallas, Texas. Mr. Browning is an elected member of the American Law Institute and a member of Scribes -- The American Society of Legal Writers. His practice areas include Data Privacy, Network Security, Electronic Discovery, and Information Management & Compliance.

His presentation warned attorneys and law students of the dangers of social media for lawyers, citing many recent cases of attorney misconduct and disciplinary actions based on Twitter and Facebook posts. He also discussed whether attorneys now have a duty to investigate social media posts of potential jurors, parties, and witnesses in litigation. He warned against misguided attempts to "friend" jurors, witnesses, or adverse parties, noting that such attempts would be ethical violations (and that you can't avoid the ethical violation by asking your paralegal to "friend" an adverse party).

One important admonition he shared involved the breach of a confidential settlement agreement for $80,000. When the plaintiff's daughter disclosed on her Facebook account that she was going to Europe on a trip being paid for by that settlement money, the settlement was voided and the plaintiff had to return the entire amount. You can read more about that case by clicking here or here.

For his work to promote ethical uses of social media by lawyers, Mr. Browning received the 2016 Lola Wright Foundation Award. That award is presented annually to a Texas attorney to recognize "outstanding public service in advancing and enhancing legal ethics in Texas.” 


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