Social media began in the late nineties and over 3 billion people currently use it across the globe. That number increases each day. As time progresses, the platforms are becoming more and more versatile and allows users to share information in the moment, raw and unfiltered.
A side effect of the freedom of social media is oversharing. Users can share too much and cause issues, especially when litigation is potentially involved. We’ve compiled a list of social media dos and don’ts, for clients, lawyers, and staff, to help combat the potential of compromised cases.
Social Media Dos and Don’ts for the Client
Social media activity can affect ongoing litigation in a number of ways when proper precautions are not practiced. Here are some basic tips to help make sure that a client or 3rd party does not affect your court case with social media posts.
Social Media and Jury Selection
Once it’s time for trial, always remember to leverage the accessibility social media provides to helping learn about potential jurors. Lawyers can use the help of social media during the voir dire process as a tool to uncover more about their venire members than they would otherwise have time to learn. A deep dive into social media profiles can help an attorney determine more about the person than the standard questions that are usually asked and help determine whether they will truly be a good juror for the case. Especially in a world where the quiet ones often become your jurors – this information can make all the difference in knowing more about the people who will decide your clients’ case.
Social Media Dos and Don’ts for Lawyers
On top of the tips already set out above, attorneys must remember to be vigilant in instructing clients to preserve social media posts. As their lawyer, you should review your client’s posts and usage of the platforms so that any content found will not be a surprise to you in the future and affect the court case negatively because you are not prepared. It is best to be as informed as possible and to err on the side of caution.
Please add social media research to your discovery process procedure. The more information you have access to, the stronger your case will be. Research the other side and all witnesses. A small detail like employment history (or a contradiction in job title/skills) found on LinkedIn can be a groundbreaking point made in briefing or trial.
Of course, be careful about how deep of a dive you take into social media and advise your clients to practice restraint. A client sending a friend request to jurors or judges can adversely impact your case. Lawyers and clients should refrain from contacting any person involved in a case via social media (friend request or otherwise) to avoid potential problems. Importantly, if you notice any misconduct in your social media research, like a juror disclosing private information, please notify the appropriate personnel immediately so that it can be properly preserved, reported, and handled.
The legal industry is changing as technology is becoming more innovative. At Watts Guerra, we choose to use this new form of publicly available information and communication to make us more informed, knowledgeable, and fluid. Take the extra time to research the jurors, to include social media in the discovery process, and to educate your clients.
If you were to take away one key point from all of these tips regarding social media, it is: always practice restraint in posting information on social media and always aggressively research the information the other side posts.