As discussed in the section on special issues in lawyer speech, there are limits on what an attorney can say publicly about clients, pending matters and even the judiciary.
At the same time, the combination of simple-to-publish social media platforms and always-on mobile devices has made it easier than ever to amplify a mistake in judgment. Complaints and commentary once confined to ephemeral conversation are posted starkly online for all to see. Where we once had time to reflect prior to venting – and even then only to an audience of family, friends and coworkers – we can now hit “send” or “update” before leaving the courtroom or conference table.
So we’ve simultaneously expanded our audience, made our communications permanent, and eliminated the friction that previously bought us time to cool down before kvetching.
The upshot is that the premium on good judgment has gone through the roof. With a publishing platform in our pocket or purse, it’s more important than ever to think twice before hitting “send.”
My advice? Never send a message electronically that you wouldn’t be comfortable having displayed in public. Not only does this rule prevent those situations where a hasty comment provides the basis for bar discipline, but it also keeps in check those more run-of-the-mill comments that nonetheless upset clients or colleagues, reveal poor judgment or showcase a lack of professional cool.
Like this Facebook update:
Or how about attorney Jesse Gilsdorf, who was suspended from the practice of law after posting a video on YouTube of his client engaging in a drug deal, while claiming the video actually shows the police planting the drugs?
Or the Reed Smith partner who sent what he thought was a private message to ScotusBlog, only to see himself simultaneously mocked and retweeted?
Always, always, always: think twice before pushing that button.
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