The Impact of Online Social Networking on the Legal Profession and Practice

IBA International Principles on Social Media Conduct for the Legal Profession
The Impact of Online Social Networking on the Legal Profession and Practice

In March 2011, the International Bar Association (IBA)’s Legal Projects Team took up an important global initiative to examine the presence and role of online social networking within the legal profession and practice. As part of the initiative, a benchmark survey entitled ‘The Impact of Online Social Networking on the Legal Profession and Practice’ was drafted and sent to all of the IBA member bar organisations around the world.

The survey represents a first attempt to shed light on the above issues on an international scale. The IBA Legal Projects Team felt that the IBA was best placed to undertake a study of this magnitude, as it currently includes over 45,000 individual lawyers and over 200 bar associations and law societies spanning all continents worldwide. In this way, it can fairly be said to be truly representative of the international legal profession.

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  1. to consider the impact of online social networking on the legal profession and practice;
  2. to analyse whether there is a need for bar associations, societies and councils to come together to address this global issue and develop guidelines regarding the use of online social networking within the legal profession and practice;
  3. to ascertain whether there is a need for the IBA to work with member bar associations, societies, and councils to construe guidelines and toolkits regarding the use of online social networking within the legal profession and practice. 


'Facing' Social Media: Setting Principles For An Expanding Future

An article by Anurag Bana

A constant challenge for legal ethics education is to keep pace with new challenges facing the global legal profession. This is particularly true in the 21st century, as rapid changes in technology and modes of communication and networking create new questions for legal professional ethics. Legal education has a central role to play in providing guidance to lawyers and judges on how to navigate the online world of social media in a manner that is consistent with legal professional ethics.

Habeas Technesis

An article by Debashish Goswami

Information Technology is the new ice-age and legal professionals cannot ignore the impacts of project management techniques or social media drivers

Lost in a Digital Paradise

The IBA Law Firm Management Committee together with the IBA Technology Law Committee and the IBA Young Lawyers’ Committee presented the session ‘Business development comme il faut or how social media and new technologies can help you step up your game’ at the IBA Annual Conference in Vienna. Read more about the session in ‘Lost in a Digital Paradise’ (Source: IBA Daily News, 08 October 2015, page 3)

No Selfies in the Courtroom

The Bar Issues Commission presented the session ‘Character machination’: 140 intangible characters can have tangible professional consequences testing the very character, integrity and independence of the legal profession at the IBA Annual Conference in Tokyo. Read more about the session in No Selfies in the Courtroom (IBA Daily News, 23 October 2014, page 7).

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Case Studies

Law Society of South Africa Introduction to Social Media Guidelines

This guideline has been compiled for the Law Society of South Africa primarily as a tool to assist attorneys in considering the use of social media. Read more

ABA: Judge's Use of Electronic Social Networking Media

A judge may participate in electronic social networking, but as with all social relationships and contacts, a judge must comply with relevant provisions of the Code of Judicial Conduct and avoid any conduct that would undermine the judge’s independence, integrity, or impartiality, or create an appearance of impropriety. Read more

Jail term for juror guilty of Facebook-chat with accused

This is the first ever prosecution of this kind in the world. A juror was sentenced to 8 months jail for ‘friending’ and ‘chatting’ with the accused over Facebook, while jury deliberations were still underway.  As a result the jury were discharged, causing the collapse of the 10-week trial, involving 500 witnesses and £6M in legal fees. The juror was found guilty of contempt of court. Read more

Judge catches lawyer in Facebook lie

A state court judge in Texas discovered that a lawyer who had asked for a continuance of trial due to a death in her family had posted pictures and status updates about ‘drinking, going out and partying’ during her week off. Read more

Courts order claimants to provide Facebook passwords to defendants

In personal injury actions, US and Canadian courts routinely order plaintiffs to allow defendant’s access to their private Facebook and Myspace pages – both current and historical – and deleted pages.  Defendants must merely establish that the sites are likely to contain information relevant to the defence case. Read more

Would-be rioters sentenced to 4-years imprisonment for Facebook page

During the August 2011 London riots, Jordan Blackshaw and Perry Sutcliffe created Facebook pages inciting riots in their home towns.  Within hours the pages were shut down and no rioting eventuated.  The Court of Appeal  upheld their 4-year imprisonment sentences. They were 21 and 22 with no significant criminal record. Read more