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Social media and the law special issue

Cover Story

Cite as: March 2014 88 (03) LIJ, p.26

By LIV Social Media

Wasn’t it just a couple of years ago that we were still questioning the value of social media? Was it just a fad, we asked? Was it just for the young? Surely there was too much risk for lawyers to get involved in it in their day to day practice.

Fast forward to 2014 and we can safely say the legal profession has acknowledged social media’s relevance and role. Social media is a mainstream communication tool that is here to stay and no doubt expand. Indeed with 90 per cent of law firms surveyed on LinkedIn, 55 per cent of firms tweeting and about a third communicating on Facebook, the profession is getting on board with increasing enthusiasm.1

So what is social media? Social media is the online interaction between people using platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Users publish their own content, be it text, images or video, to share and exchange. Social media has diverged greatly from traditional media in terms of immediacy, permanence, reach and frequency.

Social media is not just changing the way we communicate, it is changing the way laws are interpreted and practised worldwide. It’s now an accepted wisdom that unless you have at least a basic understanding of social media, you are not truly able to serve your client.

This special issue of the LIJ includes accounts of how social media has played a part in criminal, family and defamation law cases. It also gives advice to lawyers on how to use social media in discovery and evidence, what to tell clients about their social media use, what ethical considerations lawyers need to take into account, and the latest rules governing tweeting and blogging from court.

The content of this special issue has been shaped, in large part, by the LIV’s social media taskforce.

The all-pervasive nature of social media in the practice of law and the law itself led the LIV to establish the taskforce 12 months ago. It brings together members of the legal profession from a wide variety of practice areas. Collectively, they monitor developments in social media and advise LIV members on related issues so they are better informed.

The taskforce has also helped shape the content on the new dedicated social media and the law section on the LIV’s website. This contains even more information about social media and will, in the spirit of this exciting new medium, be constantly updated.

Through this issue of the LIJ and the new hub, the LIV will inform the legal profession about the use and potential abuse of social media as well as encourage lawyers to engage with it and understand it.

We thank the authors and supporting taskforce members who have contributed to make this special issue both a fascinating read and an invaluable resource.

1. www.lawyersweekly.com.au/the-new-lawyer/law-firms/law-firms-ranked-by-social-media-use.

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