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There's been so much press about Facebook privacy of late
that it makes even the average Joe consider hitting the "Deactivate"
link. As an attorney or anyone related to the legal industry, you may feel a
greater degree of responsibility regarding what you post and tweet. In fact,
the responsibility factor may seem so daunting that you have decided to opt out
of social media completely.
Working with attorneys for over five years now, I can
safely say that law firms and the legal industry are (self-proclaimed) late
bloomers when adapting to anything new and unfamiliar. While some firms have
already instituted a social media policy, many others have chosen to stick
their collective heads in the sand, hoping that social media will go away. Yet
the growth of social media even outside of the legal industry proves that
social media is in fact growing - and is here for the duration. In fact, in a
2009 LexisNexis Martindale Hubbell Networks for Counsel Survey comprised of
attorneys showed that over 60% of respondents participate in social media, with
attorneys aged 25 to 35 participating at rate of approximately 80%.
With such a unique opportunity to establish a presence in
your field, connect with new clients and network with others in the legal
industry, you don't want to pass up social media just based on fear. But when
you are ready to come around and get your feet wet in the social media world,
how can you as a legal professional protect yourself?
- Know your firm's social media policy. Just by nature of
being part of the legal industry, your firm's social media policy will more
than likely be more conservative - and more protective - and that's by design.
It can also serve as a general guideline if you are a newbie to social media.
- Familiarize yourself with your state bar rules for
advertising and solicitation. Certain nuances in your provided information,
like calling yourself an expert a particular matter, field or issue, can be
directly contrary to attorney advertising rules.
- Create a separate professional profile. Be very
selective about the personal information you provide on your professional
profile. On Facebook, consider creating a Facebook Page. Pages allow you and
your audience to avoid the obligation of "friending" you, giving a
level of privacy protection for both sides.
- Keep your clients' business off your page or profile
and out of your tweets. In fact, resist posting or tweeting about any activity
related to your client, period. If you want to share news about a settlement or
trial resolved in favor of your client as a way to promote you or your firm,
provide a link to a news source citing the case or a link to your firm's
website if the news has been posted there.
- Stay current on legal news centered around social
media. Several cases addressing gray areas in First Amendment violations and
restriction of worker's rights are currently being resolved on a case by case
basis. While some decisions have been fully enforced by a governing authority,
others have been sent back for redress or review. It's important to keep
abreast of these changes, even if they are lessons in "what not to
- As obvious as this one seems, it bears repeating: Avoid
posting pictures of yourself or your colleagues in any activity that you
wouldn't want your mother to see you taking part in. This goes for your
personal profiles as well. Whether you are a solo practitioner, a small
business owner or a paralegal at an Am Law 100 firm, your reputation is your