I am proud as heck of what most of us do as lawyers, but at some point you can be over-lawyered.

The latest example comes via New York City Attorney Catherine Foti (@catherinefoti) who asks in a piece at Forbes whether social media for lawyers is good business or an ethical minefield.

Foti acknowledges that social media offers lawyers “an extraordinary means for professional and personal networking and self-promotion, and for researching personal and professional contacts.”

She then goes on to to discuss the risks of violating the ethical rules that govern attorney advertising by using social media for professional self-promotion.

An example of one of the rules, or guidelines, Foti says lawyers need to comply with comes from the New York State Bar Association (“NYSBA”) which issued “Social Media Ethics Guidelines” requiring “Tweet Disclaimers.”

…[E]ven a “Tweet” used to promote a lawyer’s services — which can be no longer than 140 characters — must contain the information required in attorney advertisements, which can be provided using commonly recognized abbreviations. So, a Tweet used to advertise a lawyer’s services might just need to end with this 90 character message: “This Tweet contains attorney advertising. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome.” Although there are commonly recognized abbreviations for the words “attorney advertising,” PRDNGSO is unlikely to be considered an abbreviation common enough to replace “Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome.” (emphasis added)

I understand the “Tweet Disclaimer” is only a guideline, not a rule mandating compliance. Maybe a “Tweet Disclaimer” is only required when a lawyer touts case successes? Maybe disclaimers aren’t required when you share bits of legal insight or links drawing attention to yourself, website or blog.

But neither Foti nor the guidelines give it the “Oh Shucks, Twitter disclaimers would only be needed in extreme cases, don’ worry about it.”

Social media is a gift — to lawyers and the public we serve. Social media enables lawyers to connect with the public in a real and meaningful way. Get enough lawyers effectively using social media and we may even restore a little of the public’s faith in lawyers and our legal system.

Rather than chill lawyers from using social media, we in the legal profession ought to be encouraging lawyers to use social media every chance we get.

I am sure Foti is a heck of lawyer and that her intent here is sound — to wisely tell lawyers to be careful. But to cite guidelines requiring “Tweet Disclaimers” as something that lawyers realistically need to be concerned with is over-lawyering things.

Come to think of, has anyone seen a “Tweet Disclaimer.” If you can find one, send it my way and I will share it here.