Between 2008 and 2015, the percentage of the U.S. population that has at least one social media account rose from 24 percent to 73 percent. This popularity, and the billions upon billions of dollars that accompany it, has facilitated the need for legislation and ethical debate around the proper use of social networking.
Attorney and social media expert Ethan Wall has opened the doors on a MIami-based law firm dedicated exclusively to providing counsel on social media legal issues. Firms of all sizes have realized the need for social media-related legal counsel and many have incorporated it into their practice, but Wall’s firm is laying claim to the first instance of a firm dedicated solely to the risks associated with the social media revolution.
“What fascinates me most about social media legal issues is that there are new social platforms being developed all the time—at a rate so much faster than the law can adapt,” Wall told Legaltech News. “So, unlike contract law, that has been around since the dawn of time, I get to work on cutting edge legal issues that no one has addressed before. Let’s face it, when our founding fathers drafted our constitution, Snapchat didn’t exist. Thomas Jefferson certainly wasn’t live–tweeting the signing of the Declaration of Independence. And because of this, I am fascinated by how legal constructs, such as the right to privacy apply to these constantly evolving technologies. The business community needs a law firm who understands how to protect and grow their business in today’s socially connected environment.”
Prior to founding The Social Media Law Firm, Wall spent seven years practicing social media, Internet and intellectual property law at Richman Greer. In addition, he has authored four books on the effects of social media on the law, and taught social media law courses at the University of Miami, Florida International University, and Nova Southeastern University.
Wall has also established Social Media Law and Order, a company dedicated to educating lawyers, law firms, and legal marketers about how to use social media in the practice of law—even extending his reach to education on generating new clients through social media while complying with advertising ethics rules. Through Social Media Law and Order, Wall delivers keynote speeches, CLE presentations, training workshops, and offers consults on all subjects relating to social media and the law.
“At the outset, I help my clients understand that just because social media is a relatively new medium, doesn’t make it an unregulated medium. It’s not the wild west,” said Wall. “The same federal labor laws that apply to employee conversations inside a break room apply equally to conversation amongst employees on someone’s Facebook timeline. So, I help my clients accomplish their goals by applying existing laws to new technologies”
One thing for certain, social media is not going away. Wall understands that certain platforms may come and go (see Friendster and, to a certain extent, MySpace), but as more people amongst various generations continue to connect on social media—there will be a greater need to serve and protect clients in this emerging landscape. “As social media grows and expands, so too will The Social Media Law Firm to provide solutions to social media legal issues amongst new industries such as health care technology, social financial services, social marketing, etc. And to be at the forefront in this legal field for when newer technologies that we cannot even dream of eventually emerge.”
The future is looking bright for Wall and his endeavor. He is already planning to expand and looks to educate the next generation of on how social media affects, not only the law, but the practice of law and their ethical responsibilities. “Social Media Law and Order will continue to educate new and experienced attorneys alike on how to utilize these technologies responsibly and effectively in their practice through traditional and technology-based training in the classroom, boardroom and the courtroom—assuming they still exist in 10 years.”