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In a recent article in Law.com’s Law Technology News section, Robert J. Ambroji discussed Social Media and Ethics for those of us in law.

Ethics and social media will be front and center at the American Bar Association’s annual meeting this month in its hometown, Chicago. The ABA’s House of Delegates — its governing body — will consider the recommendations of the ABA Commission on Ethics 20/20, which has proposed revisions to the Model Rules of Professional Conduct to address changes in technology.

The ABA Commission on Ethics 20/20, reminds us that the same old ethical rules apply to Social Media.

Do not betray client confidence when you tweet or blog, even if you think you are being discreet. as Illinois assistant public defender Kristine Ann Peshek found out when her license was suspended for 60 days when she blogged about her clients.  Peshek thought she was blogging anonymously but it was determined that she had provided enough specific information on her clients that they could be identified.

Do not give out legal advice, this could be construed as forming an attorney-client relationship.  For us paralegals, this could be practicing law without a license.

Do not solicit clients.  Targeting a specific person to be a client is not allowed, but participating in an online forum of any kind is permitted.

ABA Model Rule 7.2 says, “A lawyer shall not give anything of value to a person for recommending the lawyer’s services.” Does this mean you cannot provide an endorsement of a colleague on sites such as LinkedIn or Avvo? Absolutely not, provided nothing of value is exchanged.  But can you promise to provide an endorsement if the other attorney promises to endorse you in return?  That quid pro quo could be seen as an exchange of value.

As Mr. Ambroji says in his article, it all comes down to common sense.  If you wouldn’t talk about your client’s case with strangers outside of your office, why would you post it online?  If you wouldn’t give out legal advice at your neighbor’s party, why would you do it online?

To read more of the article written by Mr. Ambroji, you can find it here.  I would love to hear my fellow paralegals thoughts on Ethics and Social Media too.

 

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I love my friends, don’t get me wrong and my best friend, well there is nothing I wouldn’t do for her.  Ok, maybe there are a couple things I wouldn’t do, like give legal advice or put out a hit, but other than that, I can’t think of too much I wouldn’t do when she asks for my help.  No matter how many times I tell my friends I can’t give legal advice, they will call with a question asking “what would you do!”

Take last week, my friend called telling me about a co-worker she has whose new boyfriend was having problems with his old girlfriend. Seems she was following him around town and was even going to his teenage daughter’s workplace causing scenes.  One in particular involved screaming at him when he walked in and accusing him of “giving her a disease!”  So, my friend wanted to know what her co-worker’s boyfriend could do about it.  Sighhhh.  My response was, “I can’t give legal advice.”  As much as I wanted to say something and common sense tells you what a person might be able to do to stop this woman from doing what she is doing, I couldn’t give legal advice.

So, what to do, what to do, ughh.   Don’t you hate when this happens?  You want to just tell them, don’t you?  But you know you can’t and this is where it gets many paralegals in trouble.  I have heard many new paralegals and even seasoned paralegals tell their friends or even clients what they should do, thinking they are only giving them common sense advice in a given situation.  Wrong!  When you are a paralegal, giving advice, even common sense advice, is giving legal advice and it is not allowed at any time, unless your supervising attorney has authorized you to pass on their advice to the client and you must tell them the advice is coming from the attorney, not you.

What I did was tell my friend who the “new boyfriend” could call for advice, like an attorney or the police and ask their advice.   So, I wasn’t giving legal advice, just pointing them in the direction of where to get the legal advice needed. After all, this is who I would contact if I wasn’t a paralegal.   My friend later called me to tell me when the co-worker’s “new boyfriend” contacted the police they immediately issued an EPO (Emergency Protective Order) which immediately stopped the problem, hopefully it will work for the 3 days the EPO is in effect.  We will see what happens when the 3 days are up, but I will not, I repeat, will not, give any legal advice when the EPO runs its course and my friend calls telling me the next saga to this story.  I am sure there will be more to this story, there always is.

So, all of you veteran paralegals, how do you handle this situation when friends or family ask for your “advice.”  I would love to hear and share with our newer paralegals as this is one of the problems we paralegals continually run into on an almost daily basis.

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