When does a tweet of 140 characters or less require a disclaimer? More often than you might think. While a solid social media policy is a good way to avoid online complications and potential ethics breaches, if you're a lawyer who tweets, a cautious disclaimer every now and then can save you headaches later.
Whether it's notifying your readers that they're not getting legal advice, distancing your views from that of your firm, or ending each tweet with #imnotyourlawyer, Twitter disclaimers can give you an added layer of protection.
Hands Off My Tweets!
The most standard Twitter disclaimer is something along the lines of "all opinions are my own," often added to a Twitter bio at the request of employers. This is to keep the employer from being blamed should you have the poor taste to tweet or follow something offensive and inappropriate. Don't expect that disclaimer to protect you, though. It gives the company an out, but you can still be subject to reprimand.
Is Your Twitter Account Legal Advice?
Many lawyers include disclaimers on their Twitter accounts, blogs and websites noting that what they write isn't legal advice and doesn't create an attorney-client relationship. Even FindLaw blogs come with a disclaimer! Have you read it?
Such disclaimers can help remind your audience that you're not writing just for them and that they should not rely upon your tweet on products liability -- "Ouch! #Coke can just exploded in my hand!" -- to solve a particular legal problem.
This Tweet Contains Attorney Advertising
According to the New York State Bar Association, your tweets should include a disclaimer any time your words would require one in real life. The New York Bar's social media ethics guidelines suggest that a tweet used to advertise your practice devote 90 characters, or more than half the tweet, to this disclaimer: "This tweet contains attorney advertising. Prior results do not guarantee similar outcome." You're allowed to use abbrvs, though.
As the New York Bar's guidance demonstrates, actions taken on Twitter, or online at all, should be treated similar to their real world counterparts -- so don't expect your online disclaimers to provide any more protection than you would get in real life. You can say, "This tweet doesn't create an attorney-client relationship," but if you're DMing legal advice, your disclaimer may be meaningless.