Lawyers have always been held to high ethical standards, arguably, higher standards than most other professions. After all, lawyers are “officers of the court,” and therefore, ambassadors and guardians of the legal system itself. These standards of ethics are set not only by the American Bar Association, but by various laws passed at the national and local levels.
As the world changes ethical standards for lawyers must be perpetually reevaluated and updated. And due to the evolvement of the Internet age, and particularly Social Media, ethical standards have had to evolve as well.
Lawyers are people too. Therefore, lawyers will inevitably use Social Media much in the same way others do. Just as there are pitfalls and legal landmines to avoid for individual users and businesses alike, the same goes for lawyers and their practices. Keeping abreast of the legal and ethical ramifications involved in the use of Social Media is of the utmost importance for any legal professional.
According to surveys, Attorneys are now as likely as non-attorneys to use Social Media. In fact, a recent study by the ABA found that more than ½ of all lawyers belong to at least one social media website, e.g., Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Google+.
In 2009, the ABA created what is known as the 20/20 Commission. The commission’s purpose was to “perform a thorough review of the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct and the U.S. system of lawyer regulation in the context of advances in technology and global legal practice developments.” In other words, to keep up with social change, of which Social Media being a big part, and the evolution of the practice of law.
This undertaking of reviewing and updating rules of ethics is in direct relevance to ABA Rule 1.1, which states: “To maintain the requisite knowledge and skill, a lawyer should keep abreast of changes in the law and its practice, including the benefits and risks associated with relevant technology, engage in continuing study and education and comply with all continuing legal education requirements to which the lawyer is subject.”
Like any other profession, lawyers must continuously educate themselves on issues, rules and laws that affect their practice.