THE BLOG
12/10/2012 04:31 pm ET Updated Feb 09, 2013

Do We Have Sufficient Social Media Rules for Lawyers and Non-Lawyers?

I know that lawyers are not the most popular folks. We rank somewhere amongst used car salesman and proctologists. But as I like to say, the profession earned it's reputation before I even decided to go to law school. However, we are a necessary evil. Certain problems, challenges and ventures require competent legal help and there is plenty out there.

We all like a good prank. For example, as a kid what was more fun than calling the local candy store and asking if they had Prince Albert in a can. When they replied "yes", we would retort "well heck, let him out of the can." Not all pranks are funny; as they may lead to severe consequences.

When I first heard about the radio disc jockeys from Australia calling the London hospital where Kate Middleton was experiencing severe morning sickness, I got a chuckle. That night when I heard the duped nurse had committed suicide, I must admit I was very saddened. Of course, the lawyer in me thought, wow an interesting and maybe profitable plaintiff's case!

Today we are immersed in an Internet world packed with social media and portable devices keeping us attached everywhere -- including, in bed and on the bowl. However, there are general rules of ethics, mores and customs and yes, that old concept of common sense. As an always continuing student and expert in the area of ethics, I feel that our rules and laws are too general, vague and non-specific. I suppose this is good for lawyers doing the defending but not for anyone else.

Take a look at this new matter to hit the Garden State. Defense lawyers want dirt on the Plaintiff in a personal injury case -- nothing new. We have been hiring investigators and doing that and surveillance for years. Now we can go and Google the name and search the web. However, here, the lawyers had a paralegal "friend" the person on Facebook so more could be learned. Learning about how the mined dirt was found, an ethics complaint was filed against the lawyer. What do you think, is this unethical? Stay tuned, we'll see what the New Jersey ethics folks think.

But if lawyers get slapped for this shouldn't everyone else?

Final one for you or compare this: My daughter was on a cross country trip. The tour company had one of their many buses crash and people were injured. This is news. A New York major network investigative reporter left a voicemail message on our home phone seeking an interview of a parent of a kid on one of the company's other area trips. How the heck did she know what my daughter was doing? Admittedly, she said in the message, her intern somehow got onto my daughter's private Facebook page and learned she was on one of the company's other trips.

I was really annoyed about my daughter's privacy being invaded by people I trust who give me the news every night. Unethical or not? Maybe even illegal? Even if it were, what can we do to stop it? Not much.

However, we need up-to-date rules and laws and ethical standards for everyone. But heck, if we are going to whack them for doing something bad, let's make sure we have clear rules and standards. Here in the Garden State on the subject and in many other places, we don't have clear rules concerning such Internet and social media uses. We need to get with the program!


Scott B. Piekarsky, Esq. is Certified by the N.J. Supreme Court as a civil trial attorney. He is an active litigator, lecturer and writer on ethics and trial practice topics. He has been involved in a variety of high profile cases and represents celebrities and business superstars.