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Social Media for Lawyers: Upcoming CLE Offering from Lawline.com
Posted: October 21st, 2009
By: Jeff Reekers
Category: CLE Programming, Law School, Lawline.com, The News Beat
“Extra! Extra! Read All About It!”
Remember when the penmanship of professional journalist, fresh off the daily press, dominated as our morning media source? Kids would stand on the street corners, selling the daily paper for a nickel in return from the passing professional catching up on the previous day's events. Those were the days. Okay, so I don’t remember that either, but I saw something like it in The Newsies. Nowadays, things are a little different.
The internet has created a platform in which millions of readers can decipher between a seeming endless array of sources for their news and media outlets. What’s more is that just about anyone can be a journalist: professionals, amateurs, teenagers with permanently indented grooves in their computer chairs, and yes, even lawyers. It’s not all fun and games though, and there’s more legal repercussions than many realize when they type away at the keyboard, especially in the very privacy-sensitive Legal profession. Put it another way: “Lawyers who blog, it almost sounds like a horror movie.”
These are the words of Michael Grygiel, a chairman of Media and First Amendment Law Practice and speaker at the October 14 “Social Media For Lawyers” Gothamedia Ventures seminar at the New York Law School. The seminar dug deep into the growing blogging trend and the impact it has had on the Law profession. Perhaps it’s the ease or the seeming anonymity, but what may appear as harmless communication can lead to great consequences. The seminar discussed many of the pitfalls and legal repercussions that can result from “innocent” blogging. Every blogger is subject to risks, such as libel, trademark, copyright infringement, and invasion of privacy.
Then again, blogging is still a fairly new phenomenon, so there’s a lot of interpretation and ambiguity involved in its related law. Are bloggers treated the same as journalists? Do they get the same Reporters Privilege protection under the law as professional journalists? And finally, can Joe Schmo really get sued for the things he posts on his website after downing beer number twelve on a lonely Saturday night? How do we even know who Joe is?
The seminar covered all this in a one hour discussion that proved to be far greater in professionalism and class than my words can portray. However, Michelle Zierler, organizer of the event and Director of Programs in Law and Journalism at the New York Law School, provides greater grace: “We wanted to offer hands on tips for maximizing the effectiveness of social media and flag the dangers that lawyers, in particular, need to stay clear of.” And the program did just that. The speakers gave anecdotal references of attorney’s who have faced legal repercussions relating to issues of client confidentiality, multi-jurisdictional practice, advertising, and criticisms of fellow associates, despite the thought that these were “anonymously” written (as the discussion showed, no web blogger is actually anonymous).
From the basis of the first amendment on the Freedom of Speech to current issues involving Facebook, BALCO, and “The Skanks of New York,” this seminar provided a thorough breakdown of what attorneys need to be conscious of in regards to blogging and social networking. It is essential to any legal practitioner – and any blogger for that matter – who wishes to learn about a still maturing set of legal issues and boundaries. At the very least, the seminar revitalizes an appreciation to the art, professionalism, and delicacy that goes into traditional journalism. And, even though the internet has shared the power of the press with each and every one of us, perhaps there are some things better left for the boy on the street corner. If there’s still any around, that is.
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