"Face-Off on Facebook" – Miami Law Students Teach Ethical Issues


Miami Law's Professional Responsibility and Ethics Program (PREP) recently presented an ethics training at the Legal Aid Society of Dade County Bar Association. Under the supervision of Director Jan L. Jacobowitz, third-year law students Robert Zavistoski and Candice K. Stephenson, and second-year law student Charles Muniz, presented a training that addressed hotly debated ethical issues faced by lawyers in an electronic age.

In a hypothetical titled, "Face-off on Facebook," Stephenson discussed the ethical implications of a lawyer "friending" an opposing party to gain case-breaking information, and the ethical implications of using such information at trial. Zavistoski addressed the implications of entering "unsecured" Wi-Fi networks to conduct legal work, using simple passwords to protect confidential information, and "scrubbing" hard-drives when disposing of electronics that once stored confidential information. Muniz ended the presentation with a discussion on the ethical implications of ambitious interns offering legal advice, and posting their work reflections on Facebook.

"I was so pleased to see that our research sparked such lively conversation, and it was apparent that we succeeded in bringing awareness to newly arising ethical issues," said Muniz.

"I noticed many of the attorneys taking notes on the rules and cases being presented that were useful to their specific practice areas. It is always very fulfilling to see the impact that the Professional Responsibility and Ethics Program has in the legal community," Stephenson added.

Zavistoski observed, "The Miami-Dade Legal Aid attorney's and staff exemplify that standard of dedication to a noble cause and sense of professionalism. It was a rewarding experience to help them explore the cutting-edge ethical issues of the day."

The Professional Responsibility and Ethics Program was established in 1996 as an in-house program within the Center for Ethics and Public Service at the University of Miami School of Law. The program develops and presents continuing legal education (CLE) ethics training for the South Florida legal community and has dedicated countless student hours to public service and has educated thousands of members of the Florida Bench and Bar. As the students teach, they learn and quite often make a difference, prompting organizations to pause and reconsider their approaches to some of the toughest ethical dilemmas.