No, this isn’t another polemic about how personal injury lawyers should blog or tweet. I don’t care if you blog or tweet.
Social media has been a boon for two types of people: stalkers and defense lawyers. Personal injury lawyers are not using social media offensively in great measure. Not a lot of doctors are tweeting “I knew I should have counted the instruments before I closed on Mr. Smith. Alcohol makes me silly.” And while you might hit the jackpot on occasion, it is unlikely the guy who rear-ended your client on I-83 tweeted out pictures of himself red-faced and hoisting a giant peach margarita at Water Street a half an hour before the accident.
More often than not, jury trials are about the credibility of our clients. Our clients’ veracity or lack thereof is usually the fulcrum on which the outcome of a case hangs. Social media is a great opportunity for defendants to find – maybe out of content or maybe in context – evidence that contradicts our client’s claim.
Before trial, lawyers need to know what is on-line about their clients and if their on-line presentation contradicts the core of your case, you better have one heck of a good answer. If there is an answer, it should come out on direct examination to take the sting out of the defendant’s cross. It is a delicate balance – you don’t want to create problems if the defense lawyer might not even know about in the first place. Still, you have to prepare for the possibility that whatever the worst is will be out there.
Sometimes, I think personal injury lawyers can be a little too defensive about the fact that normal things happen in the lives of people who are seriously injured. I think juries fully understand that someone can have a life altering injury but might still be able to attend an occasional Orioles game. But if that same “life altering injury” client posted pictures on Facebook of himself doing the limbo at his in-laws’ Memorial Day barbecue, you have a problem that is not likely to go way at trial.