Pennsylvania Sums Up Social Media Do’s and Dont’s

In its September Advisory Opinion, the Pennsylvania Bar’s Ethics Committee reiterated the guidance provided in several previous ethics opinions in the developing area of social media and gave a broad overview of the main ethical issues attorneys face when both using social media and advising clients who use social media.

The Committee concluded that:

  1. Attorneys may advise clients about the content of their social networking websites, including the removal or addition of information.
  2. Attorneys may connect with clients and former clients.
  3. Attorneys may not contact a represented person through social networking websites.
  4. Although attorneys may contact an unrepresented person through social networking websites, they may not use a pre-textual basis for viewing otherwise private information on social networking websites.
  5. Attorneys may use information on social networking websites in a dispute.
  6. Attorneys may accept client reviews but must monitor those reviews for accuracy.
  7. Attorneys may generally comment or respond to reviews or endorsements, and may solicit such endorsements.
  8. Attorneys may generally endorse other attorneys on social networking websites.
  9. Attorneys may review a juror’s Internet presence.
  10. Attorneys may connect with judges on social networking websites provided the purpose is not to influence the judge in carrying out his or her official duties.

Despite prohibiting attorneys from contacting represented persons through social media, in accordance with the New York State Bar Association Committee on Professional Ethics’ Opinion 843, the Pennsylvania Committee advised that it would nevertheless be permissible for attorneys to access the public portions of represented persons’ social networking websites.

This growing leniency of what attorneys may do and may advise their clients to do using social media, emphasizes the importance of competent representation by gaining at least a basic level of knowledge and understanding of how social media websites work; an obligation that is becoming an almost crucial element of the practice of law in this new digital age.

Go to this article to read further on the topic. The Pennsylvania Opinion can be found here.

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