Social Media and Neutrals
By Jeffrey T. Zaino, Esq.
Some neutrals avoid social media altogether to avoid any potential conflicts of interest based upon their concern that it could later serve as a basis for vacating an arbitration award pursuant to Section 10 (a) of the Federal Arbitration Act on the grounds of "evident partiality." Being cautious on how to use social media rather than avoiding the medium is a path to consider. Many social media sites, if used correctly, offer an abundance of educational information and a forum for a neutral to effectively and professionally market their services. Social media is here to stay. Many neutrals are full-time without staffs/offices and social media is an important link to the legal community and potential clients.
If you are a neutral, especially an arbitrator, and using LinkedIn and other social media sites, you may want to make a social media disclosure before accepting appointment to a case. The following is a suggested disclosure used by AAA Arbitrator Deborah Masucci:
"I use a number of online professional networks such as LinkedIn and group email systems. I generally accept requests from other professionals to be added to my LinkedIn website but do not maintain a database of all these professional contacts and connections. LinkedIn now features endorsements, which I do not seek and have no control over who may endorse me for different skills. The existence of such links or endorsements does not indicate any depth or relationship other than an online professional connection, similar to connections in professional organizations."
The disclosure should be tailored based on your individual situation, applicable law and any rules of the sponsoring organization or agency.
Jeffrey T. Zaino, Esq., is Vice President for the Commercial Division of the American Arbitration Association in New York.