Chief Justice Pronounces on Social Media; Stikeman Elliott Draws Most Twitter Followers

Sometimes social media feels like the near-dead horse we can’t stop flogging — and yet the cultural and communications revolution that can be laid at the feet of Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook is undeniable.

Just last Tuesday, in a speech to students at Carleton University, Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin pronounced on the phenomenon (as reported by the Canadian Press), and how the Canadian justice system must learn to cope with the wanton chatter of bloggers, tweeters and all manner of social media pundits.

As might be expected, McLachlin weighed the pros and cons–balancing the need for a strong media in lending credibility to the justice system, but also expressing concerns that fairness and accuracy might become “casualties of the social media era.”

“How can a medium such as Twitter,” she said, “inform the public accurately or adequately in 140 characters or less of the real gist of a complex constitutional decision?”

Recent murder trials demonstrate the extent to which judges are grappling with that issue–and there doesn’t seem to be much consensus so far.

In the Shafia murder trial, for instance, Justice Robert Maranger banned tweeting in the courtroom. … And likely for good reason, as the defendants’ lawyer, Patrick McCann, has pointed to media characterizations as grounds for appeal.

“The prejudicial nature of this kind of evidence is pretty overwhelming,” he said in a Globe and Mail article published on Tuesday. “From day one, the media were calling it ‘the honour killing trial.'”

Just two years ago, though, the judge in the murder trial of disgraced former Air Force Colonel Russel Williams allowed live tweeting from the courtroom.

“If witness or juror contamination is a concern with television, is it not even more so with ubiquitous social media accessed or received via a hand-held device?” McLachlin said in her speech this week.

Law firms, meanwhile, are slowly — and with painstaking care — hopping on to the social media bandwagon, as documented by Marzena Czarnecka in a February feature entitled “The Social Frontier” (available to digital edition subscribers of Lexpert or via the Lexpert app for Apple and Android).

In her piece, Czarnecka talks to lawyers from such law firms as McCarthy Tétrault LLP, Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt LLP, Stikeman Elliott LLP, McLennan Ross LLP and Kim Orr Barristers P.C. about their experiences in transitioning to the social media realm.

Czarnecka also, in a fascinating full-page sidebar graphic, breaks down the social media profile of Canada’s 10 largest law firms. The graphic draws attention to some interesting contrasts between law firm marketing strategies. Stikeman Elliott, for instance, ranks highest in terms Twitter followers, while Borden Ladner Gervais remains one of the only firms to have an active Facebook page.

Here’s some of the data from the piece. For a full breakdown of the social media profile of the largest firms in the country, go here.

– Stikeman Elliott LLP: 1,216 LinkedIn Connections; 1,958 Twitter Followers.

– Gowling LaFleur Henderson LLP: 1,449 LinkedIn connections; 1,715 Twitter followers.

– Norton Rose Canada LLP:1,312 LinkedIn Connections; 1,640 Twitter Followers.

– Borden Ladner Gervais LLP: 1,375 LinkedIn Connections; 1,511 Twitter Followers; 146 Facebook Friends.

– McCarthy Tétrault LLP: 1,188 LinkedIn Connections; 1,092 Twitter Followers; 160 Facebook Fans.

– Fasken Martineau DuMoulin LLP: 1,287 LinkedIn Connections; 1,055 Twitter Followers; 74 Facebook Fans.

– Blake, Cassels & Graydon LLP: 1,120 LinkedIn Connections; 1,010 Twitter Followers; 163 Facebook Fans.

– Miller Thomson LLP: 968 LinkedIn Connections; 742 Twitter Followers.

– Fraser Milner Casgrain LLP: 1,154 LinkedIn Connections: 725 Twitter Followers.

– Heenan Blaikie LLP: 791 LinkedIn Connections

David Dias

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