Monday, 20 February 2012

International Bar Association Survey on the Impact of Social Networking on the Legal Profession

The IBA has published the results of a major survey into attitudes towards various aspects of social media. It surveyed member bar organisations around the globe, and reports the findings here. My thanks to Randy Perkins for bringing this to my attention.

Most of the findings are in fact in line with what one might expect, and indeed are similar to opinions expressed in other professions, however the following findings from the summary are of note:

Photo by James Cridland
Over 85 per cent 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.

73% felt it is acceptable for legal employers to consider the information found on online social networking profiles in evaluating potential work candidates.

These opinons agree with those generally held, i.e. that if you make information about yourself freely available via the web and social media, you shouldn't be surprised if someone uses it to find out more about you - for any reason.

Nearly 95 per cent of respondents from jurisdictions containing a jury system thought that, in addition to routine instructions, jurors should receive specific instructions limiting their online communications and use of online social networking sites.

There have been some high profile cases recently where jurors have used social media and other online tools inappropriately.

85 per cent of respondents thought that law students should be informed by their law schools as to the potential risks and disadvantages associated with the use of online social networking within the legal profession.

80 per cent of respondents stated that there is a need for ethical/professional codes and standards to be adapted to online social interactions affecting the legal profession and practice, as they cannot be adequately applied in their current form.

I can't help but feel that this approach will be increasingly adopted by many professions with regards to their attitudes towards social media, i.e. being a standard aspect of professional training and also forming part of professional codes of conduct.

Over 75 per cent of respondents considered the advantages of online social networking to outweigh its disadvantages.

The IBA plans to launch a follow-up project in March 2012.

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