THE BAR STANDARDS Board decision to fine David Harris £2500 for incriminating tweets appears to
have prompted the legal profession into another round of navel gazing about social media, but could the industry’s progress be damaged unnecessarily by this debate?
Just as the true nature or initial point of an issue can be lost within a debate between friends, it appears that the same could have happened after Legal Futures reported how well known legal twitterers including @charonQC (AKA Mike Semple Piggot) were ‘exasperated’ at the regulator’s decision to fine a lawyer for bringing the profession into disrepute via an anonymous twitter account.
Fair opinions these are but were a social media sceptic to read such tirades it’s not inconceivable this could discourage use of online networks, just when they are beginning to be understood and exploited by law firms.
Once placed into context the story of Mr Harris is not one that really applies to many law firms who use twitter or other social networks and should be taken with a pinch of salt. Harris was fined £2,500 in relation to 19 tweets sent from an anonymous account @GeekLawyer suggesting acts of neglect within his work and attempting to bribe judges.
Such behaviour is somewhat far fetched in the imagination of most lawyers, familiar as they are of the consequences of most things. Overlooking the fact that these tweets were posted on an anonymous account we all know there are some things that just shouldn’t be publicised, it’s common sense. It is also worth bringing to attention the fact that Mr Harris was disbarred shortly after the incident. Despite rumours that his tweeting was the cause we’re told that it was for an unrelated matter.
As our recent Social Media Legal Survey has shown there are many legal professionals who utilize social media. It is a great way to promote your firm, interact with clients and manage reputation. So far this is one of the first high profile errors that has occurred with its usage and as such should not be the sole reason to disregard it completely.
Mr Sharpe, who tweets as @TMT_Lawyer one of the most prominent legal social media pioneers said, “I would hope that a sensible approach continues to be adopted, so that lawyers on Twitter or who use other forms of social media are not deterred by the Harris decision from sensible debate; there is a contra-argument that it does not serve the profession at all for lawyers to retreat from the public domain.”
Check out our simple dos and don’ts guide to social media for businesses, which is in line with general best practise guidelines.
With a strong network of media contacts and in-depth knowledge of professional services, Christina advises a range of businesses and law firms on media and business development initiatives.