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LinkedIn Requests - What are your thoughts?

After an arbitrator issues an award, one of the lawyers who appeared before the arbitrator sends a LinkedIn request. Should the arbitrator accept it? If not, how long should the arbitrator wait before accepting the online connection (if ever)? Would your answer be the same if the lawyer asked the arbitrator for coffee (clearly for networking purposes)?

Please provide your thoughts/comments below.

Comments (12)

I wait one year before establishing a personal or virtual connection (same rule for coffee as LinkedIn). If the award is the subject of litigation (enforcement or set-aside), then I would wait until one year after the litigation is concluded. Although the one-year period is artificial, it seems about right. I would gladly adopt a longer period if that is now the common wisdom.

It seems to me that trying to establish a social media connection with an arbitrator who ruled in a case where you represented one of the parties is really bad optics, regardless of how innocent the motives (but then, who would believe that they were innocent?) If the attorney really is determined to establish a relationship with the arbitrator, then waiting a year seems long enough for the case to be not the driving factor anymore.

Michael Orfield:

I don’t think you can ever be too careful. I think former judges are especially sensitive as even the hint of impropriety can bring down your entire credibility. Did the successful party request the link? Is there an implicit agreement to send more business given the favorable award? I guess the smell test is a good gauge. Does it ‘smell’ right to accept a business relationship request under these circumstances? Simply, I would not do it...ever.

Margarita Echevarria:

I think a one year wait seems reasonable. In any event whether it’s a coffee or linked in connection it will always be subject to disclosure. And that’s the the measure to be weighed going forward that is whether you as Arbitrator want to increase the level of disclosure that would be warranted.

Judge Gerald Harris:

As a judge or an arbitrator I would not be open to forming a new business or social relationship with a party or attorney who has had a matter before me. It has been truly said that judging can be a lonely profession.

Regarding the comment on the necessity of disclosing LinkedIn connections, many arbitrators use standard disclosure language to the effect that they participate in list-serves, LinkedIn and other social media and that their conflicts data bases and disclosures do not include persons with whom they may have interacted or connected as part of those activities. If that type of language is used, a LinkedIn connection occurring a year after the award would not be disclosed.

Anonymous:

The timing is awful. I agree that a year or so should pass before accepting a connection on social media.

I agree with the one year wait for a non-party appointed neutral arbitrator, however if the arbitrator is party-appointed and had a prior relationship with counsel who appointed that arbitrator, I see no need to wait for renewed contact, once the Award has been confirmed.

The real tough issue is what happens in the neutral arbitrator scenario, if the arbitrator is contacted by counsel to serve as a mediator, shortly after the Award has been rendered; or to serve as a party-appointed arbitrator?

I would never myself seek to connect on LinkedIn with counsel who appeared in a case in which I was the arbitrator. I might accept a request made by such counsel after time had passed. One subject that hasn't been mentioned is the increasingly frequent requests I receive to connect on LinkedIn with attorneys and arbitrators with whom I have no experience. I always decline those requests.

Keith Clark:

A minimum of one year, but that decision could be very fact driven.Personally, I would lean to the the very careful, cautious approaches listed above.

These are all reasonable responses and of course the most cautious approach is to never again have contact with counsel or parties in an arbitration. But one year is arbitrary and refusing all contact once a case is completely over serves no purpose.

More importantly, we should recognize that LinkedIn connections are largely meaningless. A LinkedIn connection is the modern-day equivalent of exchanging business cards. Having a LinkedIn connection does not necessarily evidence a personal relationship or bias.

The test once a final award is issued should be whether there is a chance the case will be remanded to the arbitrator and, if it is, whether there is a relationship that would create a presumption of bias. That is rarely the situation with a LinkedIn connection.

Apart from online connections, once an award is issued, I would never speak with counsel or parties about a case and would be disinclined to engage in any approaches from them until all court actions are fully concluded.

In addition to the above comments, it is worth noting that some attorneys/arbitrators use LinkedIn as more than a rolodex. LinkedIn members often post updates on their practices, articles they have written, speaking engagements, etc. Some members even use it to post personal material, and in the current political climate, to post matters that they consider to be in public interest. So I think beyond time and appearance of bias, the arbitrator should consider its own use of social media and examine how the requesting attorney uses social media before making an acceptance. If neither party is using LInkedIn as anything more than an electronic exchange of business cards, the above stated parameters make sense. If, however, the requesting attorney publicized that it had a big win for a client who appeared in the arbitration, it would be even more inappropriate for the arbitrator to connect on that platform and perhaps even the one year may be too short. Even if the requesting attorney does not post about parties to the arbitration, but instead is posting generically about her practice, the connection to the arbitrator may somehow be seen as a mutual endorsement. So beyond the social media presence, it is important to consider social media usage in deciding whether to accept this connection request.

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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on June 8, 2019 9:07 AM.

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