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Regulator issues ‘what not to do’ social media guide for solicitors amid rise in complaints

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Just days after a law firm partner was sanctioned following anti-Semitic Facebook rant

The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) has been moved to issue a profession-wide warning about social media etiquette following an increase in complaints.

The new notice reminds solicitors to double-check that all online communications are professional, lawful and (in light of recent events) not offensive. Moreover, the regulator has stressed that “offensive or inappropriate” comments made on sites such as Facebook and Twitter in a “personal capacity” could be be classed as misconduct if the poster can be identified as a solicitor.

According to the notice posted this morning, online no-nos include:

SRA chief executive, Paul Philip, said:

We expect solicitors to act at all times with integrity, including on social media and when commenting in what may seem to be a personal capacity. Public confidence in the profession is undermined by offensive or inappropriate communication and the misuse of social media can be a real problem.

The fresh warning follows a number of recent regulatory sanctions involving offensive communications.

Majid Mahmood, a director at Luton firm Liberty Law Solicitors, was handed a 12-month suspension (itself suspended for 12 months) and a £25,000 fine last week after posting anti-Semitic and anti-Zionist comments on Facebook. His personal profile, since deleted, stated that he was a solicitor.

Meanwhile, Chelsea-based solicitor Stefano Lucatello was hauled before a tribunal earlier this summer after he, among other things, sent an email to a litigant-in-person accusing of her of arguing with a judge “like a fisherwoman”. He was slapped with a £5,000 fine.

And then there’s the high-profile case of DLA Piper partner Nick West. The sports law specialist was fined £15,000 and ordered to cough up costs of £12,000 last year after it emerged that he had exchanged a number of sexist emails with a high profile client.

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16 Comments

Anonymous

What is their definition of “offensive”, exactly? Who judges what is offensive or not offensive?

(7)(0)

SRA Insider

The SRA has a lady called Mary. Mary is 92 years old and a stalwart of the regulator. Mary’s job is to test how offensive things are; each day a list of words and phrase is read out to her by Brian, her boss, while she enjoys a cup of tea. If a word is offensive she will spit out her tea in outrage, the further the distance the tea covers the greater the offense is. Once Brian said the words ‘Lord Harley’ and Mary not only spit out her tea, covering the wall opposite she was so affronted she hit Brian on the nose.

(41)(1)

Trumpenkrieg

Sounds to me like Mary is probably made of a great deal sterner stuff than the average snowflake coming through law schools in the West these days.

(0)(0)

Ciaran Goggins

Offenceometers are to be issues to all judges.

(1)(0)

SRA Insider

And do poor Mary out of a job … have you no heart, the shock could kill her.

(0)(0)

Anonymous

This is common sense. How on earth are people qualifying without knowing how to behave like professionals?

(2)(1)

Anonymous

Because in some cultures, their offensive statements are strong beliefs based on their religion which they actually believe are valid and true, and choose to follow.

Whilst the rest of the world is 500 years ahead.

(13)(9)

Anonymous

One would argue it arises from a lack of knowledge of what those religions actually say on the topic, and rather driven by geo-political statements (e.g. Mahmood and his anti-zionist rhetoric, while he staunchly denied being anti-semite).

But since you chose to focus on that singular element of the three, clearly your focus was on slating religious belief itself.

(2)(0)

Anonymous

You can argue that, but that’s not always the case, and you are right- my focus was on the religious beliefs themselves. So, now you’ve pointed out what I already know and actually stated in my post, what do you have to say?

(1)(2)

Anonymous

I’d say you didn’t answer the question in the first place. This kind of behaviour, be it misogyny/misandry, classism, racism, or any other prejudice, can be effectively weeded out through the character and suitability test, which you are required to pass prior to admission.

It’s easy to expand the scope of the pre-entry application process and the pre-admission DBS check to include a more enhanced background check; this is certainly within the remit of the SRA, and something they should be prepared to do if offering a Warning Notice on the topic.

(2)(2)

Anonymous

The question I answered (and the post I replied to) was “How on earth are people qualifying without knowing how to behave like professionals?” How precisely does my post not offer an answer to that question?
Incidentally, behaviour cannot be weeded out by tests. I suggest you read up on psychometric testing. Part of some religion for example, is the explicit instruction to lie and pretend and hide one’s true views as long as it is for your benefit.

(0)(0)

Anonymous

I can think of one or two posters on here who can smash all the ‘no-nos’ in a single post. But as they’re almost certainly lonely inadequate students they don’t have to have to worry about the regulators just yet.

(6)(0)

DeRay McKesson

Majid Mahmood dindu nuffin

He wuh a goodboi tryin to turn hi’ life aroun’

(4)(5)

Iami Rastafari of Counsel

Why no dem hoes struck off fo dissing dem Dons?
Mi is offensive just fo being Rasta

(0)(0)

Ciaran Goggins

CAA versus Chabloz, this one will run and run folks.

(0)(0)

Comments are closed.