Even though the social media landscape is rapidly changing and can feel more casual than in-person communication, attorneys must remember that their ethical obligations do not disappear online. The Rules of Professional Conduct apply to attorneys’ use of social media, but in the relaxed and near-instantaneous world of social media platforms, some attorneys may accidentally cross ethical lines. The New York State Bar Association has published Social Media Ethics Guidelines,1 based upon the New York Rules of Professional Conduct and ethics opinions interpreting them, which help attorneys navigate social media usage. Here are some tips, drawn from these Social Media Ethics Guidelines, to help New York attorneys ethically engage online.
Tip 1: Be Mindful of Attorney Advertising Rules, Even While Tweeting
A lawyer may maintain a social media profile for personal, professional, or mixed use. If a lawyer maintains a social media profile primarily for the purpose of soliciting business, the account must comply with attorney advertising and solicitation rules. If a lawyer uses his or her social media profile for a mix of personal and professional reasons (a “hybrid” account), the attorney advertising rules may still apply if used for the primary purpose of soliciting legal work.