The growth of social media has changed how we communicate in today’s world. People are using their phones, computers, and Ipads to go online for information and news and to post their own updates to family and friends on their social networks daily.
More than a billion people connect every day using social networking websites like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and YouTube and they aren’t all teenagers. Networking sites are seeing a huge rise in adult membership, including senior lawyers.
How are law firms using social media? Check with your associates. You will find that the younger lawyers at your firm are already using Facebook and most have their profiles posted on LinkedIn. Twitter is becoming more popular, so many will be regular “Tweeters”. Knowing your way around the new technology is essential for attorneys today.
Social Media Can Help Your Firm:
- Increase your overall exposure online
- Increase your brand awareness
- Improve your SEO rankings for your website
- Increase referrals from colleagues and friends
Besides networking with colleagues and friends, promoting your firm and attracting new employees, social media is playing a role in the courtroom, too.
With the surge of social networking websites, including Facebook and Twitter, it is easier and less expensive to obtain surveillance on the opposing side in cases involving auto accidents, workers’ compensation, divorce cases, custody cases and even murder cases. A recent Florida case set new precedents for attorneys using social media.
Using their own admissions in writing or using incriminating photos that they posted can be very powerful.
In the past five years, United States District Courts in New Jersey, California, and Ohio have all noted that there is no reasonable expectation of privacy when an individual chooses to disclose information, even on websites.
Facebook states that disclosed information “may” become publicly available. Many other social sites have similar rules. The courts have permitted the use of information found on social networking sites in cases where there is a relationship to the litigation, despite privacy concerns and objections.
Don’t ignore social media as a source for information while litigating your cases. Investigating social media can easily be accomplished without the use of a private investigator.
It’s easy but be careful. You cannot send the person you are investigating a connection request. This is considered entrapment. Even if the person accepts your request it may be seen as an infringement of the person’s rights.
Should the person send you a request, you should print the screen that shows the request was initiated by that person.
Twitter does not it require you to be someone’s “friend” to observe his or her activity. There have been cases where social posts have revealed activities and pictures that contradict the opposing side’s claims. These can be presented to the judge during litigation.
The use of social networking sites for discovery purposes is not only useful, in many cases it is recommended. Should you find something useful to your case, it is important to act quickly. You may want to file a motion with the court to avoid the destruction or deletion of any useful website information. You should also take steps to protect your own privacy during the search.
Also keep in mind, there have been numerous examples of cases put in real jeopardy because of prosecutors and judges posting on Facebook or jurors twittering mid-trial.
You can’t afford to ignore social media. However, you decide to use them, you need to become familiar with them and learn how to use them to your best advantage.