Lawyers and Social Media

A February 2011 post cited the book Social Media for Lawyers: The Next Frontier by Carolyn Elefant and Nicole Black (Call #KF320.A9 E44 2010) as a practical resource for lawyers on how to use social media. Since then, Nicole Black who is of counsel to Fiandach & Fiandach in Rochester, NY has been tracking the issue in her blog Sui Generis. Her most recent post states that, while some lawyers may find social media useful to gain more clients or expand their professional networks, not every lawyer will benefit from using social media tools. The reasons range from the time spent on creating profiles and interacting with other users to potential ethical concerns that use of social media raises. One such ethical concern is lawyer use of PDAs, Smart Phones and Blackberries, which according to the ABA’s 2010 Legal Technology Survey Report (available at the Brooklyn Law School Library reference desk, Call #KF318.A1L44 2010) is at 78.9% of responding lawyers.

As the use of these devices increase, lawyers may send, receive and store confidential client information so that legal ethics obligations are triggered. The September 2010 New York State Bar Association’s Committee on Professional Ethics Opinion 842 addressed the ethical obligations of lawyers who choose to store confidential client information online using cloud computing services concluding that “A lawyer may use an online data storage system to store and back up client confidential information provided that the lawyer takes reasonable care to ensure that confidentiality will be maintained in a manner consistent with the lawyer’s obligations under Rule 1.6. In addition, the lawyer should stay abreast of technological advances to ensure that the storage system remains sufficiently advanced to protect the client’s information, and should monitor the changing law of privilege to ensure that storing the information online will not cause loss or waiver of any privilege.”

Most law firms that use web based email services like Gmail rely on cloud computing. With Gmail, email messages are not stored on the law office computer. It is accessed through the web browser on the firm’s computer. The data in these email messages is saved on Google’s Gmail servers which allow access to that data anywhere at any time. Lawyers who do not find social media helpful are probably using it already.

For more on the topic, see Information Security and Privacy: A Practical Guide for Global Executives, Lawyers and Technologists by Thomas Shaw (Call # KF390.5.C6 I545 2011). Chapter 7 on New and Emerging Technologies has a section on cloud computing and Chapter 8 is on the Role of Lawyers. Sui Generis completed a 4-part series on Cloud Computing with a recent blog entry. Nicole is in the process of writing a book about lawyers and cloud computing to be published by the American Bar Association.