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Social media expert to lecture at Akron Law Nov. 9

Legal News Reporter

Published: November 6, 2018

Social media! It is evidence. It is communication. It is marketing. It is much more. And social media is impacting the practice of law in so many ways and from so many different directions that it can be impossible for even the experts to keep up.

To help separate the wheat from the chaff, The University of Akron School of Law’s Miller Becker Center for Professional Responsibility is hosting Rochester, New York attorney Scott L. Malouf, a nationally recognized expert on the effect of social media on the law, for a lecture on Nov. 9 “to launch the Center’s new lecture series: Lawyers, Technology and Ethics,” said the Center’s director John Sahl.

The free lecture will take place from 4 to 5 p.m. at the law school. Malouf said that attendants will receive CLE credit.

Malouf is a solo practitioner in Rochester who concentrates on advising attorneys on issues that involve social media, a field that runs through virtually all of modern law practice. It is a complex environment.

“Each platform is different, and brings different challenges,” said Malouf. “And social media evidence is very different from paper evidence.”

Social media is, at its most basic, a platform for people to communicate to groups. The platforms include obvious ones like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, but can also include internal communications in an app like Slack, and a number of lesser-known, small apps like the now-notorious Gab, alleged home of groups of white supremacists.

Sahl, who met Malouf on an airplane going out to attend a legal technology conference, said that “the significance of social media and related issues, such as privacy, are controversial topics in our public discourse. As noted by one expert ‘social media controversies, such as Cambridge Analytica and Facebook, have dominated recent news.’

“The legal profession is not immune from such controversy when it comes to the use of social media.

“The misuse of social media may subject lawyers to professional discipline and liability. In my opinion, it is incumbent upon all lawyers to know some of the fundamental issues associated with the use of social media to competently represent a client and avoid any professional missteps.”

Malouf said that understanding social media is particularly difficult for attorneys who do not use that medium. But every attorney who deals in evidence or who even has an office needs to be aware of all of this burgeoning field.

The legal aspects of social media break down into two distinct categories: The use of these platforms by attorneys and law offices and the use of social media posts as evidence.

The former brings up issues of client communication, security and privacy, as well as issues of lawyer advertising, said Malouf.

It also can create an issue, recently coming into awareness, of attorney-client intent.

Bar associations are publishing opinions that warn attorneys that they may be creating an attorney-client relationship with someone unintentionally if they don’t have clear enough disclaimers on their websites and Twitter accounts. Beyond that, law firms may be liable for off-brand (or worse) social media postings by attorneys and employees at the firm. Also, client communications through social media can be hacked.

Malouf said that he will train law firms in avoiding these and other potential problems that come up from the use and misuse of social media.

The other part of social media and the law is the use of social media posts, metadata, and etc. as evidence, along with the e-discovery rules and procedures that affect these posts and platforms. Malouf said the he also works with firms in e-discovery of social media platform data.

Malouf’s lecture will attempt to cover that vast new frontier in an hour, so attendants should be prepared for a high-energy, enthusiastic presentation.

According to the school, the lecture itself will “focus on social media’s impact on litigants and society. It will examine the unique challenges of finding and introducing as evidence social media data, ways to minimize the cost and uncertainty of using such data, and how to predict the legal outcomes in tech-heavy cases.

“This lecture also considers important policy concerns raised as social media and related services become key tools to everyday life and offers some new insights and standards for governing the use of social media data.”

Attendees should come with questions, This is a lot of material and it is a great opportunity to talk with an expert in this field.

The university website for this event is here: https://www.uakron.edu/law/mbc/

Anyone wanting to contact Scott Malouf should go through his LinkedIn account, he said, as he pretty much eschews Facebook. He also has a basic website at https://www.scottmalouf.com.