The premise for the opinion is straightforward: a lawyer wanted toknow if he could have a non-lawyer assistant send a Facebook “friend”request to a witness for the opposing party in a piece of litigation.The lawyer apparently thought there were juicy tidbits to be found onthe witness’s Facebook page (or at least information with impeachmentvalue) but did not think the witness would accept a friend requestdirectly from the lawyer (no surprise there—he had just recently takenher deposition). But the lawyer thought a friend request from anotherwise unknown assistant stood a good chance of being accepted.
The Philly opinion frowned on the lawyer’s proposal. It called ita “highly material fact” that the witness would be making a friendrequest without disclosing the real reason for the request. Inducingthe witness to respond favorably without that important fact would be adeception traceable to the lawyer, violating several ethics rules.
This lawyer’s ethical issue about Facebook isn’t really about Facebook
via lawyerist.com What is most important about the decision, Lawyerist notes, is that itis not really about Facebook at all. The issue facing the attorney inthis situation is a classic ethical problem that has always facedlawyers trying to collect as much information as they can inpreparation for a trial — they cannot send somebody out to collectinformation under the pretense that they are not associated with thelawyer. The article concludes, and I agree, that, “while it iscertainly possible for a lawyer to violate an ethics rule while usingsocial media, it is the lawyer’s conduct, not the medium, that willlikely be at the heart of the issue.”