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State bar updates social media guidelines

Social media networks, increasingly indispensable tools for attorneys, also pose thorny ethical questions, such as: Can an attorney accept “endorsements” on LinkedIn? Can an attorney access private Facebook pages of potential jurors? Does an attorney create an attorney-client relationship with a stranger by answering legal questions on the Internet?

To guide attorneys in dealing with various questions, the Commercial and Federal Litigation Section of the New York State Bar Association has issued a report, “Social Media Ethics Guidelines,” developed by the section’s Social Media Committee of the section.

The section’s 2014 version of the guidelines received national recognition and has been cited in ethics opinions of other bar associations.

“With the guidelines, New York leads state bar associations nationwide in guiding attorneys on the use of social media,” said NYSBA President David P. Miranda of Albany (Heslin Rothenberg Farley & Mesiti).

The 2015 guidelines adds sections on “Attorney Competence” and “Using Social Media to Communicate with a Judicial Officer.” In addition, existing guidelines have been expanded to address: “Lawyer’s Responsibility to Monitor or Remove Social Media Content by Others on a Lawyer’s Social Media Page,” “Attorney Endorsements,” “Retention of Social Media Communications with Clients” and “Maintaining Client Confidences and Confidential Information.”

The updated 2015 Guidelines reflects recent ethics opinions by the state bar association, American Bar Association, Association of the Bar of the City of New York, New York County Lawyers’ Association and other bar associations outside New York state.

The guidelines, which are advisory, are available at www.nysba.org/SocialMediaGuidelines.

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