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Tips for Your Law Firm Social Media Policy

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By William Vogeler, Esq. on March 01, 2017 5:57 AM

Have you ever seen a retraction or correction of a news story?

They are rare and often inconspicuous when they do appear. After all, nobody likes to highlight their mistakes.

The real problem, however, is that retractions and corrections do little to erase false impressions that have already been published. Words -- especially in the social media world of instant publication -- are very hard to take back.

For this reason alone, law firms must have social media policies.

Personal Social Media

There are so many forms of social media -- such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram -- that it is impossible to keep track of them all. Moreover, anybody can create a social media presence and no law firm policy can prevent it.

However, law firms can provide guidelines for employees to know what is expected on their personal social media accounts. For example, a social media policy should be clear that employees may not present themselves as "official" representatives of your law firm on social media.

For obvious reasons, an employee should never share client information on social media. It creates ethical client-confidentiality issues for the law firm, and can easily escalate into legal problems as well.

Even if a client has attacked a law firm on social media, lawyers should steer well clear of engaging in a social media battle. One law firm learned the hard way, after a judge sanctioned the attorney who sued a client for a bad Yelp review.

Protected Speech

A social media policy cannot prohibit protected speech. For example, employees may use social media for constructive and collaborative discussions about work conditions at a law firm.

However, lawyers may not use social media in libelous discussions about a law firm or reveal confidential case information. To guard against such uses, a social media policy may prohibit employees from discussing client cases or other employees on social media.

Here are some more tips from legal marketing coach Amy Knapp to include in a social media policy:

  • State bar rules apply online; observe them in both personal and professional forums.
  • Don't request recommendations on LinkedIn, give legal advice when participating in discussion forums or say anything that could be construed as a material claim or advertising.
  • Don't discuss pending matters online. Opposing counsel can watch your online activity, too.
  • Don't "friend" judges on Facebook and always be respectful of the judiciary; if you wouldn't say it in a courtroom, don't say it online.

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