Legal Ethics

New York bar section releases social media guidelines for lawyers

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Corrected: They’re suggestions, rather than requirements. But new legal ethics guidelines developed by the Commercial and Federal Litigation Section of the New York State Bar Association say lawyers need to develop appropriate social media skills and recommend appropriate social media practices.

“A lawyer cannot be competent absent a working knowledge of the benefits and risks associated with the use of social media,” state the guidelines. The report is informational in nature, and does not call for specific action from the state bar’s house of delegates.

The guidelines in the report encourage lawyers to keep copies of communications with clients on social media, and say lawyers should consider themselves responsible for correcting inaccurate or misleading information posted by others on the attorneys’ online biographies, the New York Law Journal (sub. req.) reports.

The guidelines also give a green light to lawyers to do online research on public portions of social media profiles.

“The competence is put up front because it has been lurking that lawyers have to know, when they are using social media, the pros and the cons, the pitfalls and the benefits,” Mark Berman told the New York Law Journal. A partner of Ganfer & Shore, he served as co-chair of the panel that developed the guidelines.

“And if you don’t know,” Berman said, “that’s when you get into trouble with your clients and with the disciplinary committees.”

See also: “Lawyers can look up jurors on social media but can’t connect with them, ABA ethics opinion says” “You don’t need perfect tech knowhow for ethics’ sake—but a reasonable grasp is essential”


Corrected on June 24 to state that the guidelines are advisory in nature and to link to the guidelines.

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