Social media is everywhere and it is here to stay. Social media is not only popular with the younger generation, it is also popular with the older generation. My parents and their friends, who are in their 70’s have Facebook accounts and check their accounts more often than I do!
Not only is Facebook a great way to stay connected to your friends and family, it is also a great marketing tool for many businesses, i.e. retail stores and even service professionals like lawyers.
Many lawyers have a Facebook account and they post updates on it to promote their services and/or victories. However, many lawyers are putting updates on their account without considering whether the posts are in violation of state ethics rules with regard to advertising. Most likely, the posts they are putting up are in violation of ethics rules.
Consider the following social media post:
“Another great victory in court today! My client is delighted. Who wants to be next?”
Would you think that post violates Rules of Professional Conduct? The California State Bar certainly thinks so.
In a December 2012 opinion issued by the State Bar of California’s Standing Committee on Professional Responsibility and Conduct, the ethics panel considered what types of lawyer social media postings are governed by the ethics rules. See The State Bar of California Standing Committee on Professional Responsibility and Conduct Formal Opinion No. 2012-186.
Further, it examined actual attorney posts on a social media site and determined whether those posts were governed by California’s Rules of Professional Conduct.
Though the social media site was not identified, it appears the posts were on Facebook. According to the ethics panel, the site was where the Attorney “regularly posts comments about both her personal life and professional practice on her personal profile page. Only individuals whom the Attorney has approved to view her personal page may view this content.” The Attorney has about 500 approved contacts or “friends,” who are a mix of personal and professional acquaintances, “including some persons whom Attorney does not even know.”
Click here to read about a recent California lawyer ethics committee ruling on lawyers’ use of social media and compliance with the California Rules of Professional Conduct