An op-ed written by Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney Litigation attorney Christopher J. Dalton was published in the November 15, 2010, edition of the New Jersey Law Journal. "Litigation in the Internet Age" discussed the implications social media and technology have on the legal environment.
On September 29, the New York City Bar Association's Committee on Professional Ethics determined "that neither a lawyer nor someone working for her could resort to false pretenses, 'trickery' or deception," like falsifying a social media account to gain access to evidence or witnesses.
According to Dalton, the ruling is just the latest example of the Internet impacting the legal profession.
"Lawyers aren't immune" to the societal changes brought on by new technology, Dalton wrote. "Search engines and social media are transforming the way lawsuits are started and litigated. Where aggrieved parties and their counsel used to dig up information through old-fashioned detective work, now a few keywords and clicks can lead to myriad websites and blogs devoted to similar concerns."
However, Dalton explained, attorneys' responsibility doesn't end with discovering so-called similar concerns; they "must know their client's IT systems and confer regarding e-discovery and production" of electronically store information (ESI). "Increasingly, litigants are being directed to preserve and produce potentially relevant ESI," he noted.
But the Internet impact doesn't start and stop with witness and evidence--it has also entered the court itself. During a recent case, Dalton said, "The Appellate Division held…that attorneys can Google potential jurors during voir dire."
The Internet, Dalton concludes, has changed the practice of law--and that's not likely to change.
"Those changes have, indeed, helped to level the playing field. Parties now have easier access to greater amounts of information about their adversaries and the claims at issue. Barring a collapse of our information infrastructure, these changes will continue."