Lawyers and judges and social media, oh my!

Legal profession is slow to catch on, but government gets social.

As ubiquitous as social media and the web are in our lives, you’d be hard-pressed to meet someone who hadn’t a clue about social networking basics in the digital realm. Meet the judges and lawyers who appear to make up the majority of such clueless someones.

Our first introduction is to SCOTUS Justice Stephen Breyer who once had an account set up on Twitter in order to follow the Iranian revolution. According to Justice Breyer, however, the account is a “Tweeter” account that he admittedly has no clue how to deactivate.

Next, meet Judge Walton who is presiding over Roger Clemens’ retrial. The Houston Chronicle reports the Judge has instructed the jury to refrain from using “MySpace,” along with Facebook, but didn’t know if he should include Twitter, because he wasn’t sure what it was, or how it worked.

Until he asked a juror for a briefing on Twitter, that is. Then there is Eastern Virginia District Judge Raymond Jackson who just ruled against plaintiffs in a wrongful termination suit because, according to him, Facebook “Likes” are not a form of expressive speech, and therefore are not protected under the First Amendment.

But what about the lawyers? One could argue that judges are so clueless because attorneys aren’t adequately explaining social media in their courts. By extension, the reason behind such inadequacies is that lawyers are likewise behind the curve on the mechanics of social media.

A 2011 post on Attorney Report serves to illustrate this hypothesis. Whether lawyers have a distaste for social media because they find it impossible to control is hardly an excuse. Similarly, judges claiming the age card in exoneration of their digital media ignorance are rather lame.

Governments Schooling Lawyers on Social Media

Instead, lawyers and judges should take a page from their governmental counterparts –including the Feds, who actually get social media. How digitally adept at social media is government?

Very adept. From infiltrating social networks to catch criminals and persons of interest; calling on citizens to incorporate social media into their Wills, to embracing open platforms and implementing mobile apps, governments everywhere are proving they love the social media digital age in which we live.

You know big government is social media savvy when they start distributing consumer apps for smartphones. One prime example is the U.S. Department of Labor’s endorsement of the Eat Shop Sleep app, which keeps app users informed about companies found in violation of labor laws.

Head over to this recent USA.gov blog to read up on the Social Media Will, and why you should write one. No-nonsense reading indeed, and perhaps even a bit creepy, but one thing’s for sure: the government truly gets social media. Lawyers, are you listening?

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Image courtesy of Stock.XCHNG

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