An Anonymous Social Network for Lawyers: A Good or Bad Idea?

For many attorneys, the internet has been hard to accept as a new marketing medium. With online capabilities for interaction and communication, some fear ethical violations. Since attorneys are held to higher ethical standards than most any other profession, and because of the still “foggy” ethics standards for attorney internet interaction, many attorneys either abstain from interacting online, or get in trouble. Some are beginning to find a balance of what they can do online, but Monica Zent decided she would take matters into her own hands.

Monica saw a need for a place where attorneys could interact, ask questions and feel safe from ethical standards online. She created Foxwordy, a social network exclusively for lawyers. To join, you need to be invited – which means no outside influences such as marketing companies, clients, or potential clients wading through the information or comments on the site. What makes Foxwordy special is that users are allowed to post anonymously. (If you’re interested in checking out a Q&A between Monica and the SFGate about Foxwordy, you can take a look at this article written by Benny Evangelista.)

 

Anonymity – Really a Good Idea?

Zent created Foxwordy because she believes there is a high demand for attorney anonymity online. Although it is the staple of the Foxwordy website and an interesting idea in theory, lawyers talking about sensitive case information online – anonymous or not – is not a great idea.

What happens when you post sensitive information online and another lawyer recognizes the specifics of the case? Or someone involved with the case eventually finds out the information was posted online?

Anonymous or not, whatever is posted on the internet is on the internet for good. Just because Foxwordy allows attorneys to post without being identified, doesn’t mean it’s entirely safe. No matter what, attorneys are walking a thin ethical line here, with no real guarantee that what they say will not be traced back to them.

It’s Not All Bad

The overall idea behind Foxwordy isn’t bad. Attorneys have it tough online, there’s no question about that. As I mentioned, they are held to higher ethical standards than any other profession, save doctors, and Zent found a way to help quell that issue.

A social network exclusively for lawyers could be a powerful tool for idea-sharing and thoughts about how to adapt to the ever-changing legal industry.

The Bottom Line

The bottom line here is that sensitive case information shouldn’t be discussed online, period. Zent’s attempt to create a “safe harbor” setting, where attorneys feel it is fair game to talk about anything, free from ethical standards, is a great idea in theory. However, sensitive case information should be kept offline, and “coffee shop” talks should remain in the coffee shop.

Maybe you feel you can post about a case of yours to bounce some ideas off other attorneys, and nothing will happen – but every time you do post that kind of information, anonymous or not, you will be gambling whether someone will eventually recognize it.

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