Is social media reshaping the English legal system? Damian Carter comments 06/03/12

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Posted in:Banking and Finance, HR and Employment, Litigation|March 6, 2012 | Join the mailing list

Facebook first dominated the legal news in 2011 when a juror was sentenced to eight months imprisonment for contempt of Court after admitting to contacting a defendant via the social networking site. The potential dangers of having instant access to millions
of individuals was publicised as a major threat to the justice system and the ability to keep the legal sector independent. However, as many from within the industry note, if utilised appropriately the advances in social networking can help modernise the legal
sector and the use of mediums such as facebook should be welcomed.

Whilst the legal system predominantly relies upon the postal service and hard copy documents this does not apply to commerce as a whole. Most people use a mobile phone and check their email or social network accounts on a daily basis. It therefore seems
archaic for the legal industry to ignore this fact provided safeguards are in place.

Although the legal sector is famous for networking and often linked with websites such as LinkedIn, firms have been utilising the advances in social networking for day to day work as well. It has become common practice for law firms and enquiry agents to
use social networking sites as one avenue when tracing individuals and developing character references. It is only a natural progression for new media to now be acknowledged by the Court.

With this in mind the news that a UK law firm has been granted permission to serve documents via facebook should be welcomed. This is the first time a High Court claim has been served via facebook after approval was given by Mr Justice Teare.

Before the usual ‘floodgates’ argument begins it should be noted that the system of serving documents via facebook has previously been used in both Australia and New Zealand providing precedent for this development. Further, before documents can be served
via facebook, there must be Court approval whereby a judge is satisfied that the correct individual has been tracked down and that the use of social networking sites is the most appropriate way to serve documents provided that conventional means of service
are not available.

As society in general embraces the use of facebook, twitter and many other forms of new media; the legal sector needs to move away from its old fashioned image utilising the various forms of communication available to it. Facebook and twitter accounts are
no longer merely a way for firms to entice potential trainees; they are viewed as a useful medium to communicate with clients and peers. It is now time for social networking to advance the way we conduct legal practice with the decision of Mr Justice Teare
opening the door on a potentially vital method for contacting defendants.

To discuss how we can provide further advice in connection with these issues, please contact Damian Carter, Partner in our Dispute Resolution department, by email to or alternatively you can call Damian on 0161 833 9211.

The information and opinions contained in this article are not intended to be comprehensive or to provide legal advice. No responsibility for article’s accuracy or correctness is assumed by Berg or any of its
partners or employees. Professional legal advice should be obtained before taking, or refraining from taking, any action as a result of the contents of this article.

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