3 Major Ways That Social Media Marketing Has Altered Legal Battles
Social media has achieved a broad influence. It has reached around the globe, to connect most of the billions on the planet. It’s been a huge benefit for companies, especially with regard to marketing.
Also, because of the overarching reach of business and social media, it’s begun to change other entire industries. Litigation is one area that has experienced the effects of ubiquitous social media.
On the whole, online activity has become a major portion of the way litigators conduct business. It has both caused problems and aided attorneys’ work.
Activity in social media can be particularly dangerous if a client or lawyer is not savvy about all its potential effects. On the flip side, it can be a powerful tool for enabling a satisfying outcome.
Though results will vary by the case, the most important thing overall for lawyers and clients to grasp is the undeniable influence that social media can now have on litigation. Being aware is at least half the battle.
Here are some of the trends that legal entities should know about social media and its effect on legal actions.
1. Personal information has become more accessible
Personal information is turning up all over the Internet. Social users publish vast amounts of private information, often without recognizing the potential effects of their casual release of words and images.
Companies, attorneys, and even random strangers may obtain unrestricted access to a treasure trove of information about a person through social profiles. Because of the openness, it’s a rich storehouse of data that can be used in court without penalty.
As a result, it’s become a routine step in a lawyers’ performance of due diligence to surf social media for evidence. Search functions are becoming ever better via social channels, which makes it easier to develop a damaging case as well as mitigate any risk from loose information.
Research of available data through social media can even be required in court actions. If information has been made public, many judges will require that it be brought forward during the proceedings. This has made the process of litigation far more challenging for all sides.
2. More ethical problems arise in online situations
Because of the available data, there’s also a problem with the Internet turning into an ethical minefield that’s incredibly complex and difficult to negotiate. The ethics don’t relate to using information posted on social media; courts have treated that as data that’s been knowingly made public.
An issue arises, however, when a lawyer connects via social media with a client or other person involved in the case for the sole purpose of gaining information. Thus, it’s critical for law firms to be very careful with their social media use.
The wrong move could put their own client at risk and damage their case. If they haven’t already, law firms should be enacting policies to protect their clients from ethical dilemmas in this arena.
3. Social media can influence jurors
Social networks have a marked impact on jurors and their view of the case. Social media can be an easy source for either valuable or damning evidence.
Jurors might run across information published online, for example, that could influence their decision. They could easily have improper contact with lawyers or parties to the case.
Additionally, there are often strict statutes to limit the use of social media by jurors in disclosing privileged information. Too many jurors have ignored or misunderstood this rule, however, and disclosed private information or corporate secrets relating to the case.
Though there are penalties for such behavior, the damage to one of the parties’ positions in the case can be considerable.
All of the above situations have the potential to exert a major effect on the outcome of a trial. Attorneys and their clients have a responsibility to grasp the possible impact of social media on their proposed litigation before jumping in.