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Forty-five percent of employers report they use social networking sites to screen applicants for employment as of August 2009 and even more plan to do so in the near future. And it’s pretty common knowledge that lawyers are using on-line profiles to gather information regarding prospective jurors. But now the tables are turning in an odd way. Attorneys: take note! The judge may want to be your “friend”.
A recent article in the Texas Lawyer tells about three Texas judges and how they use Facebook and other social networking sites to network, solicit campaign support, and “other purposes”. It’s that last part that’s the real clincher. These judges are reading profiles of attorneys, witnesses, and plaintiffs/defendants that share “too much” and could be used in court against them.
We are all figuring out how to use Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn as we go about our daily activities. While it is likely never a good idea to call the judge an “evil, unfair witch” in your blog, keep in mind the following as you develop and refine your on-line persona:
- If you are using social networking sites for business purposes, have two sites—one personal and one professional.
- Assume that even your personal site becomes publicly distributed—keep your profiles and content “G-rated”.
- Keep all of your posts suitable for universal consumption– watch what you post, tweet, blog, or text.
- And don’t make my own mistake—double check the “To:” line on emails just before you hit send, not moments afterward.
Sure—it will make you less witty on the web, but it won’t come back to bite you. The line between the personal and the professional is blurred as never before. We don’t have control over how others may use easily collectible information about us. As you think about the growing field of e-discovery—consider what you are putting out there about yourself. It is likely not just Texas judges that are watching.