With how advanced the internet has gotten over the last couple of decades, people can look up everything they need to know about their lawyers with one click on Google. For most attorneys, it will lead you to their website or Facebook page featuring their contact information or advice that they are willing to share to future clients or the general populace. For others, you may come across an unsatisfactory piece on them from your local or statewide news.
It’s become more important than ever for lawyers to maintain their public image. Millions could see any bad social media posts they make. Anyone with a phone can catch them saying something controversial and send it to the internet within seconds. This not only puts them at risk of losing their jobs, but it can also harm the cases or reputations of their clients.
Anonymous posts aren’t so anonymous
Recently, the Louisiana Supreme Court disbarred a federal prosecutor who made several inappropriate posts on the website of the New Orleans newspaper, The Times-Picayune. The website allows users to post responses to breaking news under anonymous usernames. The posts he made were comments on cases he was directly involved in and often featured inappropriate language towards the defendants and their lawyers.
Many of the defendants in the prosecutor’s trials got second chances to alter their sentences after the discovery of these posts. This includes a federal trial of six police officers for shooting residents on the Danziger Bridge, who were able to make a plea for lighter prison sentences due to “grotesque prosecutorial misconduct.” The prosecutor and his attorney claimed that he made those comments to relieve stress and that he was suffering from PTSD, but it wasn’t enough to stop the court from disbarring him. According to the opinion document released by the Supreme Court of Louisiana, the prosecutor’s actions greatly harmed the reputation of the United States Attorney’s Office.
The outcome of an outburst
In 2018, a New York commercial law attorney went viral when a bystander recorded his outburst at a Manhattan restaurant. He was seen by millions threatening to deport workers for speaking Spanish to their customers. It didn’t take long for the internet to identify who he was, and shortly afterwards his Yelp and Facebook pages were bombarded with negative reviews accusing him of racism.
Despite the attorney’s attempts to apologize, the damage was done. Now a former client of his is suing him for legal malpractice. The client’s suit claims that the attorney’s rant led to them spending a lot of time and money trying to find a replacement lawyer and that they lost numerous business opportunities from how he ruined their reputation.
These cases prove that an attorney can also represent their clients outside of the courtroom. They have to maintain a professional conduct and be careful of their online and social activities to avoid bringing harm to themselves as well as any potential future or past clients. With how recent these types of cases have been, you may want to seek different legal assistance if you believe your current or former attorney’s misconduct is negatively affecting you or your business.