Conduct unbecoming: What should the Society do when it comes to social media gossip, posts and behaviour?

Robyn Schleihauf, NSBS Staff Lawyer, Early Resolution

As the public interest regulator of the legal profession, we receive concerns about lawyers’ conduct. With the rise of social media, we have increasingly received calls with concerns about what lawyers post online, whether it be on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or dating sites.

Social media are platforms for speech and their use ubiquitous: most lawyers have at least some online presence either personally or professionally.

While lawyers have the same Charter guarantees as anyone else, including the s. 2(b) right to freedom of expression, this right is restricted by the ethical obligations a lawyer owes as a licensed member of the legal profession.

There are limits placed on lawyers, even in their personal life, when it comes to speech.

The paper, “Conduct unbecoming: What should the Society do when it comes to social media gossip, posts and behaviour,” explores to what extent the Society should regulate the speech of its members, in the public interest.

This paper, written by Robyn Schleihauf, NSBS Staff Lawyer, Early Resolution, identifies the three rules in the Nova Scotia Barristers’ Society Code of Professional Conduct that explicitly engage a lawyer’s conduct in their private life, and three categories of speech that may fall within the Society’s jurisdiction to review.

It also provides an overview of the Supreme Court of Canada’s decisions in Doré and Groia and draws out four principles from the caselaw to help evaluate these complaints when they are received.

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