Lawyers have been warned not to cause offense online after a rise in complaints about rudeness.
Law firms have been sent a warning notice from their regulatory watchdog reminding them that their communications should always be professional and lawful.
Even online offensive or inappropriate comments that lawyers post in a personal capacity could be classed as misconduct, the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) said.
The warning notice to 130,000 solicitors in England and Wales came in response to a rise in reports of solicitors falling below the standards expected of them, the regulator said.
Recent cases involving offensive communication include:
- Majid Mahmood, of Luton, writing on Facebook that it was a shame a plane carrying Jewish refugees had not blown up. He was fined £25,000 by the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal after admitting that the posts were “offensive” and “wholly inappropriate”
- A solicitor sending late-night tweets that led to a rebuke because of the offence they caused
- Three solicitors being fined a total of £14,000 and being liable for more than £7,000 of costs after exchanging offensive emails about a colleague
- A solicitor being fined £15,000 for emailing a client using language that the tribunal described as “despicable”.
Paul Philip, the SRA chief executive, said: “Public confidence in the profession is undermined by offensive or inappropriate communication and the misuse of social media can be a real problem.
“But this is also about communication within an office or to clients. Solicitors cannot justify their conduct by saying that the communication was private, or they did not intend to cause offence, or that recipients were not offended.”