Do Lawyers Need A “Stupid” Stamp: Think Before You Post Online To Avoid Ethical Pitfalls

By at 12 May, 2010, 11:56 am

Great article from the National Law Journal carried on Law.Com about lawyers who post stupid things online and then end up in ethical hot water. Lawyers' Ethical Stumbles Increase Online  details a number of examples where lawyers have posted comments, articles or other information online which violate the Rules of Professional Conduct for which they then get in trouble. The lawyers covered are from across the country and the online vehicles of their self destruction vary from blogs to Facebook to commenting on online news stories. And it's not just lawyers: Judges are getting caught as well. One of the examples involves, I'm sorry to say, an Assistant Public Defender from my home county of Winnebago, Illinois, who was posting about her clients and their cases in very free and open language. Or how about Chicago immigration lawyer Samir "Sam" Chowhan who advertised for an assistant on Carigslist that also included having sex with him as part of the job duties. According to the story:

The ad asked for a résumé and a few pictures, "along with a description of your physical features, including measurements."

A woman identified in the complaint as Debbi responded. Chowhan e-mailed her back: "[I]n addition to the legal work, you would be required to have sexual interaction with me and my partner, sometimes together sometimes separate. This part of the job would require sexy dressing and flirtatious interaction with me and my partner, as well as sexual interaction. You will have to be comfortable doing this with us."

Are you kidding me? I wonder if the lawyer was surprised when the job applicant felt uncomfortable with this conduct and then reported the lawyer.  The article goes on to detail the story of a lawyer in Broward County Florida that posted complaints online about a Judge the attorney appeared before. According to the story:

"…was an "evil, unfair witch" with an "ugly, condescending attitude." He also suggested she was "seemingly mentally ill." His beef? The judge allegedly wasn't giving defense lawyers enough time to prepare for trials.

If only the parties that the lawyers direct their vitriol against were as ignorant of how to use the internet and technology as the lawyers themselves appear to be. Unfortunately, that isn't the case and lawyers across  the country continue to post before they think. Here's some advice for you: when you have the urge to post or reply in the heat of the moment, step away from the keyboard and give it a day to think it over. Never post or reply with anything that you would be embarrassed to have appear on the front page of your local newspaper the next morning. Even if you reply privately or send a direct email, nothing prevents the recipient from forwarding that message. See these articles here and here  on the what has been referred to as  the "Ketchup Trousers" incident or "Ketchupgate" that lead to the resignation of a senior associate at an international law firm.

Categories : Blogging | Ethics | Hmmm! | Public Relations | Tips and Tricks

John May 27, 2010

At the least he was honest and upfront, unusual for a lawyer.

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