The Risk Manager, Fall 2010

We lawyers tend to be gregarious and the opportunity presented by the social media on the Internet to exercise that tendency is enormous. It seems everyday there is yet another new way to get on the Internet and touch somebody. These contacts often lead to new friends and maybe even a new client or a client we did not know we had. Therein is the rub. While it is true that lawyers can have a personal life, when their social media networking spills over into professional activities they are at risk.

At the American Bar Association Spring 2010 National Legal Malpractice Conference two programs on social media risk management were presented – A Guided Tour of Social Media* and The Challenge Of Social Media For The Ethical Practice Of Law.**

In “A Guided Tour” social media was categorized with examples as:

  • Personal: Facebook,, and MySpace
  • Professional: LinkedIn, TalkBizNow, and Plaxo
  • Legal: LawLink, Legal OnRamp, MH Connected
  • Microblogs: Twitter, Tumblr, Jaiku, and Yammer

In “The Challenge Of Social Media” it was stressed that:

“Social media and social networking activities can be problematic because lawyers can

  • post profiles,
  • answer questions,
  • add comments,
  • market their professional services, and
  • discuss their professional and personal lives.”

The program then covered the following risk management considerations to avoid malpractice and ethics issues when using the social media:

  • Don’t talk about clients or their matters
  • Don’t talk to clients about their matters
  • Know and respect the marketing-related Rules of Professional Conduct
  • Avoid the Unauthorized Practice of Law
  • Avoid conflicts of interest
  • Don’t give legal advice AKA avoid phantom clients
  • Protect your identity
  • Be polite and professional
  • Avoid making the wrong friends
  • Beware of employee social networking

* Presented by Catherine Sanders Reach, MLIS ABA Legal Technology Resource Center.
** Materials for a Panel Discussion prepared by Simon Chester, Heenan Blaikie LLP, and Jeffrey T. Kraus, Vice President and Loss Prevention Counsel, ALAS, Inc., together with articles written by Dan Pinnington Director of practicePRO, LAWPRO’s risk and practice management program.