So I'm having a #LegalChat this morning on Twitter, and the subject of …
Pardon? Oh, what's a "#LegalChat"? It's an open conversation on Twitter where people can choose to participate and discuss a particular topic by tweeting something and adding the hashtag #LegalChat at the end of the tweet. Or you can just lurk, and read the different entries without adding your own. (Nothing wrong with that.) You don't need to be invited, and the group is obviously self-selected. But only people who are interested in the topic would bother.
Today's #LegalChat was about the legal implications of social media — a timely topic. (See "Vote 'Yes' on social-media law.") An incredibly bright bunch of social-media experts and lawyers joined in with questions, answers, and tips. One of the recurring themes was how to help companies and individuals protect themselves while using social media — short of abandoning it altogether.
Since I've written here about my antipathy toward draconian social-media policies, I thought I'd share my take on how social-media users should protect themselves. Here's what I tweeted on the #LegalChat discussion:
[@VMaryAbraham is the well-respected blogger, lawyer, and knowledge manager who asked the question.]
Since I have more than 140 characters here, let me explain:
The advice I give people using social media — or anything that's written electronically — is to assume that the person you most want not to see it … will see it. (This is actually a corollary to our firm's First Rule of Litigation: The other side will always learn what you most want them not to learn.) Over 17 years of employment litigation, I've seen it happen too many times not to believe that it is actually Cosmic Law (or at least an offshoot of Murphy's Law).
All too often, people either (1) don't even think about the possibility that the wrong people will read what they've written, or (2) underestimate the likelihood that it will be seen. Either way, they end up with the embarrassment (or worse, the litigation) that comes from the wrong people reading the wrong things.
Never assume that people won't find what you've written. Lawyers can be pretty smart, and we can often find things that you think you've hidden. (See my recent Above the Law post, "Social Media and Breast Implants.")
If you follow Cosmic Law, then there's no need to avoid social media or be burdened by restrictive social-media policies.
What do you think? Is following Cosmic Law enough? Do you think it isn't Cosmic Law? And when exactly is the Cosmic Law bar exam?