The new Lawyer’s Code of Professional Responsibility and Accountability (CPRA) was approved unanimously by the Supreme Court Justices during their En Banc session on April 11.
With consultations from over 2,000 law practitioners nationwide, the newly revised CPRA (A.M. No. 22-09-01-SC) aims “for a more ethical and faithful practice of the profession” which is designed to be “a modern, relevant and responsive guide for a lawyer’s conduct.”1
With this, the Supreme Court ensured that the new CPRA is relevant, timely, and up-to-date, especially in this age where the use of social media is prevalent.
As you scroll through your timeline on TikTok, Twitter, or Facebook, it is now quite common to see medical practitioners giving free medical advice. In fact, the rise of influencers from the medical field has become mainstream. And nowadays, we can also see some lawyers engaging online with netizens in answering legal questions.
But what does the new CPRA say about this?
Among the significant changes under the New Code of Ethics is the incorporation of the new provisions promoting the responsible use of social media.
Canon II (Propriety) of the new CPRA now provides a section for “Responsible Use of Social Media.” It was introduced with a preliminary statement for lawyers to “uphold the dignity of the legal profession in all social media interactions in a manner that enhances the people’s confidence in the legal system, as well as promote its responsible use.”
The first paragraph of the section on Legal information, legal advice of Canon II of the new CPRA, recognizes that lawyers “may provide general legal information, including the answer to questions asked, at any fora, as well as social media.”2
In reality, giving free legal advice on social media is a good way for lawyers to reach a wider audience and connect with people who may not otherwise have access to legal services. This may improve access to justice and ensure that more individuals have the knowledge to make informed decisions about their legal rights and obligations, especially to those with limited access to legal resources.
On the other hand, the second paragraph of the same section provides that “A lawyer who gives legal advice on a specific set of facts as disclosed by any person in such fora or media creates a lawyer-client relationship and shall be bound by all the duties in this Code.”3
Part of these duties under the new CPRA on “Responsible Use of Social Media” is the duty of “a lawyer to ensure that his or her online posts uphold the dignity of the legal profession, as well as maintain respect for the law.”4 The new CPRA also explicitly provides that “lawyers should not maliciously post or disseminate false statements or commit any other act of disinformation.”5
The new CPRA provides that when lawyers start providing legal advice on a specific set of facts — instead of general legal information — from the public through social media platforms, a lawyer-client relationship is forged. This entails the duty of lawyers to maintain confidentiality with their clients.
In fact, the new CPRA has specific sections on “Non-disclosure of privileged information through online posts”6 and the “Duty of Lawyers to safeguard client confidences in social media.”7
Certainly, the new CPRA highlights lawyers’ duty to abstain from disclosing any information that may be covered by the privilege, even if it is in response to a client’s online inquiry. The new code of conduct requires lawyers to take appropriate measures to ensure that their social media activity does not compromise the confidentiality of their clients and the lawyer-client communication. The new code of conduct also expects lawyers to be judicious in giving legal advice online as this could create ethical and legal obligations, even if they did not intend to create such a relationship. This way, the lawyer-client privilege, which is a fundamental principle in establishing trust and confidence between lawyers and their clients, is protected in this age of social media.
The provisions on “Responsible Use of Social Media” in the new CPRA highlight the fact that the legal profession has always been held to high standards of conduct and ethics, both in and outside the courtroom. With the power of social media comes the potential for ethical breaches, and lawyers must be cautious in how they use these platforms.
While lawyers are free to engage and answer on Facebook, Twitter, TikTok or in any other social media platforms to provide legal advice in a creative and engaging way, they must always keep in mind their obligations to their clients, the legal profession, and the justice system.
1 Supreme Court, Supreme Court Officially Launches the Code of Professional Responsibility and Accountability <https://bit.ly/SC-CPRA.> last accessed on May 9, 2023.
2 A.M. No. 22-09-01-SC, Section 43, Par. 1.
3 A.M. No. 22-09-01-SC, Section 43, Par. 2.
4 A.M. No. 22-09-01-SC, Section 37.
5 A.M. No. 22-09-01-SC, Section 38.
6 A.M. No. 22-09-01-SC, Section 40.
7 A.M. No. 22-09-01-SC, Section 41.
This article is for informational and educational purposes only. It is not offered and does not constitute legal advice or legal opinion.
John Joshua R. Carillo is an associate of the Litigation and Dispute Resolution Department of the Angara Abello Concepcion Regala & Cruz Law Offices (ACCRALAW).