Thursday, February 19, 2015

Gawker intern lawsuit shows the need for social-media savvy in the legal profession

Have you recently tried to communicate with someone under the age of 25? Have you tried to call them? How about email? What about text message, Facebook, or Twitter? I bet that your communicative outreaches are much more likely to gain a response if you choose any of the latter over the former.

Thus, it shouldn’t be that surprising that a federal court is permitting a group of former interns (now plaintiffs) to use social media to reach out to potential class members concerning a wage-and-hour lawsuit against online blog network Gawker. According to Gawker, however, in this letter filed with the court [pdf], the plaintiffs’ planned social media outreach goes too far.

The court previously green lit the plaintiffs’ use of social media to reach potential class members. Their proposed plan? In addition to tweets directing potential class members to a website about the lawsuit, the use of the hashtag “#gawkerinternlawsuit, and the creation of a Facebook pages and LinkedIn group to disseminate information to potential class members. Other proposals, to which the employer objects, include:

  • Repeat messages over numerous social media sites, including Twitter, LinkedIn, Reddit, Facebook.
  • The use of inflammatory hashtags such as #fairpay and #livingwage.
  • Plaintiffs’ counsel adding potential claimants as Facebook friends.
  • Using Reddit to tie the lawsuit to unrelated political causes.

I don’t need to tell you that social media has become ubiquitous. I also don’t need to tell you that lawyers are notoriously slow to adapt. As the Gawker case illustrates, social media is playing, and will continue to play, an important role in litigation. If I were hiring an attorney to handle my employment litigation, one question I would be asking is whether that lawyer understands social media, uses social media, and knows how it could be used to help the case.

[Hat tip: Employment Law 360]