The International Bar Association has just published the first global study of the impact of social media on the legal profession. The IBA represents 45,000 individual lawyers and more than 200 bar associations and law societies worldwide. (The IBA website has a super cool map with more details by country). I also really enjoyed this IBA video about the study (they annoyingly don’t allow embeds, though, sorry).
According to the report,
“The initiative was prompted by an unprecedented worldwide surge in the use of online social networking. From the crucial role it played in the Arab Spring, to the dramatic increase of super-injunctions in the UK, and it most recent use in the planning of the England riots, online social networking seems to have a recurring presence in the media and in daily life. Members of the legal profession are not immune from the ripples of such a wave. Judges have felt its momentous presence in situations involving the inclusion of material found on online social networking pages as evidence in proceedings, and the misuse of online social networking by jurors, to name a few. Private practitioners are confronted with the possibility of interacting with judges and opposing parties on such sites, while in-house lawyers are forced to adapt their internal firm policies to these topical issues.”
Among the findings (my bold),
- almost 70 percent of respondents found it acceptable for lawyers and judges to have each other as contacts on online social networks.
- a majority of respondents found it unacceptable for lawyers, judges, and jurors to post updates about legal proceedings,
- the majority deemed this conduct acceptable for journalists.
- over 85% of respondents deemed it acceptable for lawyers to access and use the information found on the online social networking profiles of the parties in a case, which forms part of the public domain, as evidence in proceedings.
- 95% of respondents from jurisdictions with jury systems thought that jurors should receive specific instructions limiting their online communications.
- only 15% of respondents felt that lawyers’ use of online social networks negatively affects the public’s confidence in the integrity and professionalism of the legal profession.
- almost 40% felt that judges’ use of online social networks does negatively affect the public’s confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judicial system.
- 85% thought that law schools should teach about the risks of social networking.
- 75% thought the advantages outweigh the disadvantages of social networking.
- 95% thought that the profession could benefit from training courses discussing guidelines for social networking within the legal profession and practice.
- 80% thought there is a need for ethical codes and standards for the profession.
Fascinating stuff! Leslie White, our resident columnist on risk and social media, will hopefully be able to dig into all of this a little deeper for us, but in the meantime, have a look at the report.