Excerpted and adapted from The Consumer Law Revolution: The Lawyer’s Guide to the Online Legal Marketplace by Stephanie L. Kimbro, now available from LPM Publishing.
With the many benefits that come from the use of social media, there are risks that the law firm must minimize. The individual lawyer or law firm that chooses to create and use a profile within a social media application has the responsibility for controlling the privacy and dissemination of the information posted online within the constraints of the application’s settings.
- Know your audience. Distinguish between internal social media applications that are limited to legal professionals, such as Legal OnRamp, and external social media applications, such as LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and Google+, that are accessible by the general public. There will be different degrees of security, privacy, and malpractice risks based on the application’s intended users.
- Control your profile. Head to the privacy or account-setting options immediately after registering. Do not accept the default privacy settings from the application. Adjust the flow of information from your profile to reflect the amount of interaction you want for that specific application. Check back on the privacy settings regularly to make sure the application has not changed the privacy options.
- Exercise restraint and think twice before posting items or clicking to accept offers from third-party applications.
- Do not allow others to create your online identity for you. Prospective clients will Google your name and your firm’s name. They will go to consumer reviews (Yelp) and rating sites (Avvo) before hiring you. Do you know what they are finding from social media?
- Do not create anonymous profiles or online personalities; be transparent in your identity.
- Be consistent with your online image throughout the different applications and in profiles on marketing sites. For example, when posting the firm’s logo in profiles, use a service, such as Gravatar, to post the same photo across the web.
- Assign one lawyer the responsibility of monitoring and being active on behalf of the firm within different social media applications. Monitor the firm’s online presence on a regular basis. For example, run regular searches on Google Alerts to make sure the online presence of the firm is positive.
- Be prepared when you run into clients online. Let clients know the firm’s policy toward social media from the beginning of the relationship. For example, let clients know that the firm and members of the firm will not “friend” or “follow” clients or communicate about clients’ cases using unencrypted social media applications. Explain to clients the risks and the importance of protecting the confidentiality of their information so that they will not use social media applications to share information online about their cases.
- Create a social media policy for your firm. Educate firm members and provide expectations rather than restrict social media involvement. Recommend that members of the firm use appropriate disclaimers if they are providing general legal advice on any social media sites or posting on their own blogs.