The Law Society in the UK has published a guidance booklet detailing best practice for any solicitor currently using or intending to use social media such as Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn.
The booklet, which runs into 13 pages, summarises the principles at stake by reminding solicitors that:
“the same ethical obligations that you adhere to professionally also apply to your conduct in an online environment”.
In particular, the booklet advises, there are three main pillars which solicitors need to ensure are being honoured during social media use: their obligation to act with integrity; their duty to maintain complete independence; and the continued maintenance of standards concomitant with the trust placed in them and their services by the public.
The booklet signals several potential dangers associated with social media use; including the possibility that merely being identified as a friend or contact of a client on a social media site, might constitute a breach of solicitor/ client confidentiality.
The booklet also warns solicitors to ensure they exercise firm control over how they safeguard and disseminate information; and to be on their guard against the possibility of inviting accusations of defamation.
In addition to the general advice offered in the booklet, the Law Society also uses the document to strongly recommend that individual practices establish their own code of conduct for social media use.
Such a code, says the Law Society, should cover areas such as strategy, compliance, and the allocation of designated responsibilities to particular roles.