Social media is everywhere today, from family members on Facebook, to colleagues on LinkedIn, to your favorite celebrities keeping you up to date on their Twitter account. But how does the lawyer fit into social media?
Social media can be a great way for a lawyer to market themselves and also stay in touch with their clients. Sites such as Facebook are free and you can easily design a page for yourself or your firm to help sell your services.
Many lawyers are also creating their own blogs in order to enhance their own reputations and also get their name out.
But there are some risks involved in using social media.
It can be very easy to cross the personal/professional line when using something like Facebook. Comments you make on Facebook might be accidentally read by people other than those intended, and you need to be aware of the ethics involved when making a statement that essentially anyone with Internet access will be able to see.
What if you have a bad day at work? It is human nature to complain about your job, but do you really want to do that in a forum that could be read by anyone? Or even have your comments be misconstrued by others?
And how many times are you asked for legal advice as soon as someone finds out your occupation? What if you accidentally give someone legal advice through LinkedIn in the comments section, and then later find out that it was a conflict of interest with a current case?
If you really want to exploit the power of social media, here is a list of 8 “Don’ts” from Dan Pinnington of Lawyers Professional Indemnity Company when you are using social media of any kind:
- Don’t talk about clients or their matters.
- Don’t talk to clients about their matters.
- Don’t run afoul of the marketing-related Rules of Professional Conduct.
- Don’t engage in the unauthorized practice of law.
- Don’t engage in conflicts of interest.
- Don’t give legal advice online.
- Don’t jeopardize your identity. Protect it.
- Don’t make the wrong “friends”.
Remember, when you put something on the Internet, it is out there for good. Even if you delete it, someone has a copy of it somewhere on their computer, and it can come back to haunt you. And if you have friends that you don’t really know linked to your page, others may have access to pictures or comments you have made in the past. And let’s face it, your clients are probably searching your name on the web, and one of the first hits during a search is usually a link for Facebook or LinkedIn. So you don’t want to talk about judges or your colleagues in your newsfeed, or brag about your latest case by quoting something the judge said or summarizing his comments.
While social media can have its benefits, there are still a lot of risks to take into account. Make sure you check your local bar association to find out what rules, if any, have been drafted with social media in mind. For example, LinkedIn has a section where others can endorse your skills; some bar associations may say that goes against ethics rules involving advertising. To be safe, disable endorsements if you use LinkedIn. If you follow the “Don’ts” listed above, that should help protect your integrity and ethics as a lawyer as technology continues to change the way law is practiced today.
Other links to check out regarding social media and the lawyer:
LinkedIn Endorsements Could Be Trouble For Lawyers
Crucial Mistakes Lawyers Can Make Using Social Media
– Duane Cary