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State Bar to Tackle LinkedIn Issues

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At its most recent quarterly meeting, the Ethics Committee discussed whether an attorney could accept a LinkedIn invitation from a judge or accept an endorsement from a judge on LinkedIn regarding the lawyer’s skills or expertise.  The staff-proposed opinion held that a lawyer was not able to accept a LinkedIn invitation to connect from a judge, and likewise could not accept an endorsement from a judge, unless the lawyer knows that he or she will never represent a client in a proceeding before the judge.  This proposed opinion garnered quite a bit of comment from members of the Ethics Committee and the opinion was ultimately sent to subcommittee for further study.  The proposed opinion centered around whether the LinkedIn or similar type “connection” could be prejudicial to the administration of justice under Rule 8.4(d) inasmuch as lawyers have an obligation to protect the integrity of the judicial system and avoid the appearance of impropriety or judicial partiality.

One counselor brought up the fact that there are other types of connections that lawyers have with judges, such as named contributors to or direct support of campaigns for reelection, that would appear to have greater impact on the concerns about impartiality than a mere connection on LinkedIn.  There were also concerns that the proposed opinion by staff might have too broad a scope.  I would stress that there is currently no opinion restricting a lawyer from having a connection with a sitting judge at this point, but there will be an opinion of some sort coming down the pipe in the next several months.  I would urge you to submit any comments you may have to the Ethics Committee via Nichole McLaughlin. (nmclaughlin@ncbar.gov)  The more comments and input the Bar receives from its membership, the better any final opinion will be.

If you’d like a copy of the draft opinion, feel free contact me through this website.