Barristers have been warned they could face disciplinary action if they take part in ‘heated’ internet debates, post ‘distasteful’ comments online, or - even - reveal their whereabouts via social media.
In newly issued guidance, the Bar Standards Board tells barristers that ‘anything you publish online may be read by anyone and could be linked back to your status as a barrister’. It adds that regulatory guidelines apply to content posted in ‘both a professional and personal capacity’ and apply to unregistered barristers as well as to practising ones.
Twitter, YouTube, Facebook and LinkedIn are explicitly included in the guidance.
Comments designed to ‘demean or insult’ are ‘likely to diminish public trust and confidence in the profession’, the guidance states. ‘It is also advisable to avoid getting drawn into heated debates or arguments. Such behaviour could compromise the requirements for barristers to act with honesty and integrity (core duty 3) and not to unlawfully discriminate against any person (core duty 8).'
Even comments which ’you reasonably consider to be in good taste’ may be considered distasteful or offensive by others, it warns.
Barristers should also avoid sending confidential information to clients via social media and should be wary of publishing their location online in case they inadvertently reveal who they are acting for, the BSB said, citing the duty to keep clients’ affairs confidential.
The newly issued guidance will be considered in any action the regulator takes over concerns about social media use.