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Potential Confidentiality Perils of Twitter

This Washington Post piece about a low-level editorial assistant who inadvertently spilled the beans on Twitter about the start date of a Virginia gubernatorial candidate's television campaign doesn't involve a lawyer, but holds cautionary lessons nonetheless. Here's what happened. Jonathan Paula, a video editor, decided to share news of his work situation on Twitter: "I work 45 hours a week as an assistant editor in Boston editing political campaign commercials. Right now: Bob McDonnell for VA Gov."

Within three hours, Paula's tweet made its way to Ben Tribbett, a Virginia political blogger who promptly shared the news at his blog, Not Larry Sabato. Democrats delighted in the leak, since McDonnell, the Republican candidate, had tried to keep the start date of his television campaign secret in hopes of catching his opponent off guard.

It's easy to see how lawyers or their staff could commit a similar Twitter faux pas and tip off an opponent. For example, a lawyer's assistant might tweet "Tried to contact witness for Jones trial but couldn't find him," thus letting the other side know that a critical witness is missing. Or a lawyer in the midst of a trial might tweet "Awful day in court, ridiculous ruling" that the judge might run across. 

My own personal rule of thumb is that I don't tweet about ongoing matters, ever -- not even letting on that I was in court on a given day. I may be overly cautious, but I'd rather be safe than sorry -- sorry like Jonathan Paula may be now.

Does your firm have a policy in place on Twitter use for lawyers and staff? Let us know how it works in the comments below.

Posted by Carolyn Elefant on May 7, 2009 at 02:21 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)

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