Social media is now integral part of handling lawsuits

Gaining access to comments made through social media is now a standard approach when attorneys get involved in a conflict, whether checking out the situation as it is falling apart or handling litigation after it filed.

I have previously mentioned that the Internet is permanent and described how easy it is for anyone to run a low-level background check on you.

Now two attorneys, Leita Walker and Joel Schroeder, have given us a glimpse in their article, Eureka! Discovering (and Using) Social Media in Litigation, of what this looks like when attorneys dive into a case. 

They discuss how to use social media for research on opponents as a case is developing as well as how to get materials through discovery.  Much of their article is “inside baseball” for the legal profession, but CPAs can understand the article and learn much from it.

Why should CPAs read the article? To understand the degree to which social media is an integral part of litigation today and see how devastating/powerful it can be to someone’s case (all depends on your perspective, huh?).  As we CPAs understand these issues better, we can hopefully persuade our clients to be more careful.

What are some interesting and sobering ways social media is used?  How about to research the reputation, credibility, or wealth of a potential opponent?  Or find out if someone was as horribly traumatized back then by the horrible on-the-job treatment as claimed now in an employment discrimination suit.  Or to see if someone is as disabled as claimed (my illustration is that if you had a great time on the bike ride or on your surfboard, you probably are not totally incapacitated!).

Other issues the attorneys discuss are how to gain access to your opponent’s social media comments.  On the flip side, if someone is coming after your social media, how do you preserve it so you can turn it over at the appropriate time?  That gets into the document retention issue – if you intentionally or inadvertently delete what your opponent is after, that could destroy your case no matter how weak your opponent’s claim might be.

I recommend the article – it is good stuff for us CPAs to know.

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