It’s easy to see how the practice of “follow-back” between attorneys could be construed as such an ethical violation because the act of following someone on twitter is interpreted as a tacit endorsement of that person’s online professional “social media presence” (and thereto, their acumen in the professional presence they represent online). If that endorsement is unfounded and simply occurs for the baseless reciprocal endorsement the lawyer seeks to receive in return, it is not difficult to construe such behavior as an act of dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation. Still, this social networking practice remains commonplace – especially among legal professionals on twitter – and, as yet, bar associations have been silent on the matter.
The fact that this custom is deemed to be an ethical violation when practiced on one social networking site (LinkedIn), but not when practiced on another social networking site (twitter), illustrates the problem for attorneys who wish to capitalize on the use of social networking without violating ethical rules. Such selective application of the rules creates an ethical minefield for attorneys using social networking and reinforces the need for a more balanced application of rules to social networking usage by attorneys.