Applicants’ social-networking sites may now be reviewed as part of the Character and Fitness process for applicants to the Florida State Bar Association. According to the ABA Journal, the Florida Board of Bar Examiners voted to review applicants’ social-media activity on a case-by-case basis. The board will review sites like MySpace and Facebook only for candidates who have a demonstrated history of troubling conduct.
What’s my take on this news?
1. It was inevitable. It was only a matter of time before it happened. The President required applicants to disclose their online activities, so why wouldn’t the state bar associations?
2. It’s not a terrible idea. If the state intends to have a truly effective screening process, the more information gathered, the better.
3. I’m not crazy about the idea of only looking at the sites of “problem” candidates. Having not given it too much thought, my first inclination is to argue for a random selection process instead of selecting only candidates who have a history of issues.
4. I am also inclined to disagree with the decision not to make an up-front request to all applicants for access. The bar association says that “if applicants are required to provide access to their social websites, they are likely to delete any derogatory material before staff has the opportunity to review it.” As I’ve previously argued, it’s the ones who are warned in advance and still don’t remove potentially offensive material that we should really be concerned about. I think this is a more effective checks and balances on exactly what conduct or behavior will count “against” an applicant (for bar admission or employment).