The Pennsylvania Bar Association issued a formal opinion on attorneys’ use of social media.
The opinion deals with the following issues: (1) whether attorneys may advise clients about the content of the clients’ social networking websites; (2) whether attorneys may connect with a client or former client on a social networking website; (3) whether attorneys may contact a represented person through a social networking website; (4) whether attorneys may contact an unrepresented person through a social networking website for viewing information that would otherwise be private/unavailable to the public; (5) whether attorneys may use information on a social networking website in client-related matters; (6) whether a client who asks to write a review of an attorney, or who writes a review of an attorney, has caused the attorney to violate any Rule of Professional Conduct; (7) whether attorneys may comment on or respond to reviews or endorsements; (8) whether attorneys may endorse other attorneys on a social networking website; (9) whether attorneys may review a juror’s Internet presence.
The Opinion addresses attorneys’ social media use for business purposes. A social media profile used exclusively for personal purposes may not be subject to the Rules of Professional Conduct.
Conclusion from the opinion:
“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 pretextual 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.”
Mentioned Ethics Opinions:
- Philadelphia Bar Association Opinion 2014-5
- North Carolina State Bar 2014, Formal Ethics Opinion 5
- Philadelphia Bar Association Opinion 2009-02
- New York State Bar Opinion 843
- Oregon State Bar Formal Opinion 2013-189
- Kentucky Bar Assn., Ethics Comm., Formal Op. KBA E-434
- New Hampshire Bar Assn., Ethics Comm., Op. 2012-13/05
- North Carolina State Bar Ethics Comm., Formal Op. 8 (2012)
- Pennsylvania Bar Assn, Ethics Comm., Formal Op. 2014-200 (2014)
- ABA Formal Opinion 466
Relevant Law: Pennsylvania Rules of Professional Conduct: 1.1 “Competence”; 1.6 “Confidentiality of Information”; 3.3 “Candor Toward the Tribunal”; 3.4 “Fairness to Opposing Party and Counsel”; 3.5 “Impartiality and Decorum of the Tribunal”; 3.6 “Trial Publicity”; 4.1 “Truthfulness in Statements to Others”; 4.2 “Communication with Person Represented by Counsel”; 4.3 “Dealing with Unrepresented Person”; 8.2 “Statements Concerning Judges and Other Adjudicatory Officers”; 8.4 “Misconduct”
Pennsylvania ethics opinions available at https://www.pabar… (members only)