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Tuesday, August 23, 2016

The Benefits and Ethics of Social Media

By Kimberly A. Bielan

The use of social media is gaining traction in the legal profession, with attorneys frequently posting blogs, writing articles, and sharing articles of interest.  As Co-Chair of REBA’s Strategic Communications Committee, the evolving use of social media presents great opportunity, presenting the ability to connect REBA members with access to blog posts, event updates, access to seminars, and the chance to more actively participate in the Association.  Put simply, social media presents a mechanism by which you can not only market yourself to prospective clients, but also engage with your colleagues in the legal profession.
At the 2016 REBA Spring Conference, I had the opportunity to speak on a panel entitled “Joining the Social Media Revolution … One Step at a Time” with Julie Barry, Co-Chair of REBA’s Strategic Communications Committee, and Justin Tucker.  The panel was an opportunity to introduce REBA members to the variety of social media platforms, answer questions, and discuss ethical issues that may arise when using social media.  As part of the Strategic Communications Committee’s effort to encourage active social media engagement between REBA and its members, this article is the first in a series on the topic, which seeks to encourage you to dip your toe into the proverbial social media pool.
Part of attorneys’ hesitancy to use social media is often a question of the ethics surrounding the new medium.  To be sure, social media may present traps for the unwary, but all one need keep in mind is that the applicability of the Massachusetts Rules of Professional Conduct (S.J.C. Rule 3:07) to online conduct is no different than it would be to actions undertaken off-line.  Stated succinctly, if you would not undertake certain conduct in person, then do not undertake that conduct on social media.  Keeping this simple statement in mind should guide your online interactions and (hopefully) take some of the intimidation out of engaging on a new form of medium. 
Here is a list of other things to remember when interacting on social media:

1. Social Media Profiles and Posts May Constitute Legal Advertising

2. Avoid Making False or Misleading Statements

3. Avoid Making Prohibited Solicitations

4. Do Not Disclose Privileged or Confidential Information

5. Do Not Assume You Can “Friend” Judges (In fact, according to Massachusetts Committee on Judicial Ethics Opinion No. 2011-6, judges are prohibited from “friending” any attorney who may appear before them!)

6. Avoid Communications with Represented Parties

7. Be Cautious When Communicating with Unrepresented Parties

8. Beware of Inadvertently Creating Attorney-Client Relationships

9. Beware of Potential Unauthorized Practice Violations

10. Read Cautiously with Testimonials, Endorsements, and Ratings
For more on each of these topics, including specific examples and recommendations on how to deal with each situation, please consult your 2016 REBA Spring Conference materials.
The Strategic Communications Committee looks forward to interacting with all of REBA’s members and encourages all members to access its blog at, which is updated often with new content, to engage with REBA on Facebook, and to follow REBA on LinkedIn, where links to articles and events are frequently posted.
Kimberly Bielan co-chairs REBA’s strategic communications committee and is a leader in the association’ strategic long-term planning, particularly with the new lawyers committee.  She practices in the litigation department of Marcus Errico Emmer & Brooks, P.C.  Kimberly can be contacted by email at


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