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How to Avoid Social Media Landmines

Just days away from a huge trial, you’re scrambling to prepare for trial and you’re convinced that you’re on the verge of winning the biggest trial of your career. Then your case implodes. Your trusty paralegal brings social media posts of your client selling her services as a prostitute. The social media posts are worse than you could ever imagine and there’s no question that defense lawyers are chomping at the bit to crush your client’s character.

You didn’t do your homework and now you’re faced with the consequences of losing your case based on irrelevant social media posts. You can try to blame your client, but you’ve got no one to blame but yourself. At least you’ve learned one lesson: this will never happen again!

Searching for Social Media Landmines

As soon as you are retained, conduct a thorough search of your clients’ social media pages. This includes not only a review of your clients’ social media pages, but also the public pages of their spouse and friends. Run a social media search of your clients’ families and friends, adversaries and witnesses in every case.

Advise your client on their use of social media and how it can impact the outcome of the case. Sit at the computer with your client and review the public portions of their social media pages and those of people close to them. The date on which a photograph is taken and the date on which it is posted may be, and often are, different. Clients may post, or re-post, old pictures to their page.

Have your clients review and sign a document setting forth your advice and rules for social media as soon as you are retained. The following are Our Rules for Social Media:

Our Rules for Social Media

Social media posts, photographs and video can be full of damaging information that the defense lawyers will use against you. As soon as you file your lawsuit, the defense lawyers will be searching through your social media profiles (i.e., Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.) for damaging information about you. Additionally, defense lawyers will be searching the social media profiles of your family, co-workers and friends.

We strongly recommend that you take the following three (3) steps to prevent the unwanted disclosure of damaging information from your social media profiles.

#1:   Set the highest levels of security and privacy to all of your social media sites, so nothing can be viewed by the general public.

#2:   Stop posting any photographs or other information on social media until the case has resolved.

#3:   When in doubt, remove or “take down” photographs or postings from social media sites.

All social media content, even if set to private, may become subject to a court order and eventually have to be produced.

Any postings or photographs that are removed should be printed and preserved before they are removed. Even when you delete or remove posts on your social media profile, they will still exist on the timeline of your friends and followers and you should not assume that your social media posts are unavailable to the defense lawyers.

If you need help following Our Rules for Social Media, please call us.

Please sign Our Rules for Social Media, where indicated, to acknowledge that you read, understand and will follow Our Rules for Social Media.

Dated: April 3, 2017

_______________________________
Client

Social Media Posts are Forever

Advise your client that the Internet is forever—nothing is forever deleted. Photographs that have been removed from your clients’ page may remain on the public social media pages of friends and family if they were shared. Postings of comments or photographs become part of the permanent record on the Internet. To the extent that a post is “taken down” or deleted, the post still exists.

 

photo credit: ePublicist Social media chart via photopin (license)

Leave a comment below telling me what surprised, inspired or taught you the most (I personally respond to every comment). And if you disagree with my take on running a personal injury law firm, or have a specific, actionable tip, I’d love to hear from you.
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