PREP Explores Social Media and Legal Ethics with Miami-Dade Legal Aid and The County Attorney’s Office


 Dalisi Otero; Janelly Crespo; Assistant County Attorney James Allen; Jennifer Felipe; Katerina Ona

County Attorney Picture: left to right: Dalisi Otero; Janelly Crespo; Assistant County Attorney James Allen; Jennifer Felipe; Katerina Ona

Students of the Professional Responsibility & Ethics Program (PREP), along with Director Jan Jacobowitz, visited Miami-Dade Legal Aid Society and the Miami-Dade County Attorney’s Office recently to discuss ethical issues relating to social media. While the practice areas of these offices are different, issues of legal ethics and social media are relevant to the work of attorneys in both the public sector and in nonprofit organizations.

At Miami-Dade Legal Aid Society, PREP interns Gina Raijman, Janelly Crespo and Dalisi Otero conducted a session focused on service via Facebook, spoliation of social media evidence, and rules regarding withdrawing from a pending case.

The group’s presentation at Miami-Dade Legal Aid Society “afforded [Raijman] the opportunity to introduce lawyers who routinely struggle with traditional methods of service to a new trend in the legal world, namely using social networking sites like Facebook as a means of providing substituted service.”

At the Miami-Dade County Attorney’s Office, PREP interns Janelly Crespo, Katerina Oña, and Otero, along with PREP fellow Jennifer Felipe, presented on spoliation of social media evidence, investigation of jurors’ social media, the use of Fitbit data in litigation, and the authentication and admissibility of social media evidence.

“Social media is a timely issue that is changing the way attorneys practice law, and being able to engage practicing attorneys on the issue was truly exciting and enlightening,” said Oña.

“Having the opportunity to discuss important, trending ethical issues was a wonderful experience at both Miami Dade Legal Aid and the County Attorney’s Office,” said Crespo. “It is interesting to see the different ways that social media impacts the practice of law, especially in organizations like Dade Legal Aid Society and the County Attorney’s Office.”

“It is always exciting to see how the audience reacts to new issues, such as, the use of wearable technology data in litigation. The opportunity to present the topic and engage the attorneys at the County Attorney’s Office in a lively discourse was not only rewarding but very educational,” said Felipe.

“Both presentations prompted insightful discussions among the attending attorneys,” said Otero. “We learned a lot about the realities of practicing law, which students may not often think about.”

PREP develops customized CLE ethics trainings thereby providing an opportunity for students to explore diverse areas of the law and interact with attorneys practicing in those areas regarding the ethical challenges that confront today’s legal profession. The program combines the attributes of an ethics institute and an ethics clinic, and has dedicated hundreds of student hours to public service and has educated thousands of members of the Bench & Bar.

In 2012, PREP was recognized by the ABA with its E. Smythe Gambrell Professionalism Award —the leading national award recognizing programs and projects contributing to the understanding and advancement of professionalism among lawyers and judges. In addition to presenting ethics trainings, throughout the semester PREP students publish blog posts regarding the nation’s newest ethics opinions and cases. The blog, Legal Ethics in Motion, can be found here.