Other than for purely fun purposes, location based social media seems to be the type of Internet fad that may not be of great assistance to the legal profession. You are, of course, aware of this trend: Foursquare, Facebook Places, the late Gowalla, and other applications permit a user to alert friends to his or her exact location at any given time. Users “check in” to a venue, retail establishment, or elsewhere and can leave comments and suggestions to later users who may find themselves at the same location at some point in the future.
Again, there does not seem to be must use for this technology in the legal field. First and foremost, confidentiality and privilege concerns may prevent an attorney from sharing his exact location at a given time with anyone other than his client. Further, clients will receive no additional value by “checking in” to their attorney’s office, although we suppose some practitioners could, in fact, offer some type of incentive for future clients, although we don’t know how that might look or whether it would be ethical or not.
Despite such concerns, these days, most commercial establishments, including law firms, have their own entries on Foursquare. Sometimes these are created by the firms themselves, and more likely than not, the entries are generated by whatever crawling software those services use to create specific entries for a given city or town. But it’s not just law offices on Foursquare. Also included are entries for the types of places lawyers frequent, such as courthouses, bar association headquarters, CLE sites, and other such haunts.
What inspired this post was a comment left by a Foursquare user a county courthouse somewhere in the Southeastern United States. As a judicial center, it hosts various courts and offices where both civil and criminal trials are held. Sure enough, the courthouse had its own entry on Foursquare, and the following comment was left by a visitor on December 21, 2011:
“If you kill in self-defense don’t destroy evidence and run away for 2 weeks, it looks bad to the jury.”
Probably good advice, although we are trying to envision the exact circumstances by which this comment was offered. Was this a juror commenting from the deliberation room? Was this a courtroom observer commenting upon public proceedings? An attorney offering pro bono legal advice? Was this a reporter? Surely it was not the defendant attempting to learn from his or her mistakes?
Get this: that entry is not an anomaly. Here’s a December 2010 comment we found to the Foursquare entry of a federal courthouse:
“Don’t break the law and you wont have to spend much time here.”
Again, probably good advice, though much more general than the first comment we discussed.
As you can see, there are some uncomfortable questions to be asked accompanying the usage of Foursquare in the judicial process.