Does your firm have a social media policy?

linkedin-facebook-twitterSocial networking has grown exponentially in popularity over the past year. More people are using social networking sites for all manner of things. So, are your employees using these services to discuss the work they do?

If so, how could that help or hurt your law firm or company? With a social networking policy, you can control to some extent what you will and will not allow your employees to say online, in public.

Steven Bennett of Jones Day, writing for the New York State Bar Association, discusses the potential effect of Twitter on lawyers (PDF). However, his discussion translates well into all social networking sites. Bennett reminds us that “[l]awyers must pay particular attention to the risks of revealing privileged or confidential information in Twitter messages, which are often programmed to be sent to a group of friends and acquaintances.”

He has a great point. It is easy to get into the habit of complaining or bragging about your day in such a casual manner and forgetting our high ethical duty to clients. Bennett agrees and goes further to explain the other risks of this casualness. Indeed, “. . . despite the informality of the medium, messages that contain what may appear to be legal advice, that operate on the (unstated) premise of an attorney-client relationship, or that may be characterized as a solicitation of legal work, may have the unintended consequences of raising professional responsibility issues or ethic concerns.”

To ensure that your firm or practice is aware of these potential risks, it is important to have a social media policy. Recently, the Wall Street Journal released the guidelines set forth for their staff, and it is a great starting point. Jaffe Associates also offers a terrific model set of social media rules for law firms.

If you are new to social networking, check out our Facebook 101 post.

UPDATED: New ‘WSJ’ Conduct Rules Target Twitter, Facebook | WSJ

Online Chat: Be Careful What You Say | Wisconsin Bar

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  • Melanie Green

    We do have a social media policy and it concentrates largely on making sure we comply with ethics standards for our jurisdictions when using these mediums. Each guideline goes into deeper detail, but in a nutshell it includes:

    1. The Internet is not anonymous, nor does it forget.
    2. There is no clear line between your work life & your personal life in these mediums. Always be honest & respectful in both capacities.
    3. Avoid hazardous materials – defamatory, harassing or indecent statements.
    4. Keep confidentiality.
    5. Don’t pad your own stats – no creation of anonymous profiles to pad link or page view stats.
    6. Always trackback.
    7. Identify yourself.
    8. Do not pat yourself on the back.
    9. Do not qualify your work.
    10. Do not approve recommendations or testimonials.
    11. Do not promote successes. Can’t use words like “successfully” “favorably” “won” or “prevailed” as it relates to your work.
    12. Do not return fire.
    13. Do not offer or appear to offer legal advice.

    As mentioned above, the written policy goes into more depth but this provides the 30,000 ft. view. Each jurisdiction follows different rules as it relates to some of these topics, so important to check your State’s ethics guidelines/rules and draft accordingly.