In an age dominated by the digital landscape, the legal profession is not exempt from the impact of social media. The Bar Standards Board (BSB) in the United Kingdom recognizes the need for clear guidelines in the ever-evolving realm of social media use among barristers. In response, the BSB has recently released new guidance that addresses the professional use of social media for barristers. This guidance aims to provide clarity on how barristers can navigate the digital world while maintaining their professional obligations and ethical standards.
Following the conclusion of the Bar Standards Board’s (BSB) consultation on conduct in non-professional life, the BSB Board has approved new guidance which we are publishing today. The guidance includes revised Social Media Guidance, new Guidance on the Regulation of Non-Professional Conduct, the BSB’s response to the consultation and revisions to BSB Handbook guidance.
The BSB Handbook now Contains BSB Guidance on Barristers Using Social Media in Bothe Their private and Business Lives
This is a comprehensive document to be considered by all Barristers but here is an important significant section:
‘We may consider taking regulatory action against you where your conduct on social media is such that it is potentially in breach of the BSB Handbook. The BSB is more likely to have a regulatory interest in social media use where the manner in which you express yourself is inconsistent with your obligations under the BSB Handbook. We are less likely to have an interest in the substance of the views that you hold (however unpopular they may be). However, there may be cases where the views or opinions that you express may mean that regulatory action is justifiable, for example, where you post material online which is dishonest or discriminatory.’
Guidance From The BSB on Their Website
In developing these guidance documents, we have sought to strike a balance between barristers’ human rights and their professional obligations under the BSB Handbook. Commenting on the new guidance documents, BSB Director General Mark Neale said:
“After carefully considering the wide range of responses we received to our consultation, these revised guidance documents provide greater clarity rather than indicating a significant change to our approach. The documents explain more clearly how we will apply the existing rules and how we try to balance barristers’ obligations under the
BSB Handbook with their rights under the Human Rights Act 1998.”
Social media platforms have become powerful tools for communication, networking, and professional development. Barristers, like other professionals, use social media to share legal insights, connect with colleagues and clients, and engage with a wider audience. However, the use of social media in the legal field comes with its own set of unique challenges and responsibilities.
The New Guidance
The BSB’s new guidance on social media offers comprehensive recommendations for barristers, aiming to strike a balance between the freedom of expression and the maintenance of professional standards. Some key aspects of this guidance include:
- Upholding Professionalism: Barristers are reminded that their professional obligations extend to their online presence. They are expected to maintain the same standards of professionalism and ethics on social media as they would in any other professional context.
- Protecting Client Confidentiality: Barristers must exercise extreme caution when discussing cases or client matters on social media. Sharing information that could compromise client confidentiality is strictly prohibited.
- Avoiding Offensive or Harmful Content: Barristers are advised to refrain from posting content that may be offensive, discriminatory, or harmful. This includes refraining from making derogatory comments about colleagues, clients, or opposing parties.
- Disclaimers: The guidance recommends that barristers include disclaimers on their profiles to clarify that their posts are personal and not representative of their chambers or the profession as a whole.
- Engaging in Constructive Debate: The BSB encourages barristers to participate in constructive and respectful discussions on legal matters and broader societal issues. However, they are advised to be cautious about expressing personal opinions that may be perceived as professional advice.
- Monitoring Privacy Settings: Barristers are encouraged to review and adjust their social media privacy settings to control the visibility of their posts and personal information.
The Bar Standards Board’s new guidance on social media marks an important step in adapting the legal profession to the digital age. By providing clear and comprehensive guidelines, the BSB empowers barristers to make informed decisions about their online presence, balancing their right to express personal opinions with the ethical and professional responsibilities inherent in their role.
In an era where social media’s influence is pervasive, this guidance serves as a beacon of guidance to ensure that the legal profession continues to thrive while maintaining its high standards of professionalism and ethics.