In the past several years, social media compliance has become an important part of business strategy. However, certain types of companies, such as financial institutions 💲, pharmaceuticals, and law firms, have much more at risk when it comes to adhering to legal requirements.
In fact, the legal industry faces especially heavy regulation of attorneys’ and firms’ social media presence due to potential ethical and security 🔐 violations.
As a result, all law firms should create a social media policy for their attorneys, paralegals, and administrative employees.
While firms can easily find samples of business’ social media policies online, they must also take into consideration 🤔 the rules and regulations specific to their industry.
More specifically, upon creation of their social media compliance strategy, law firms must consider the following topics and regulate their use of social media as necessary:
⚠️ Information Leaks and Confidentiality ⚠️
Legal professionals utilizing social media, whether on business or personal accounts, must be vigilant in avoiding accidental leaks of confidential information 🙊.
For instance, an attorney releasing official data about a case – even public knowledge! – or corresponding with their client online could face legal charges.
Believe it or not, some legal professionals have even been known to purposely share private or embarrassing information about their clients on their personal social media pages, just for likes 🤦♂️.
That said, according to the American Bar Association (ABA) Formal Opinion 10-457, lawyers may not share private client information without direct consent. Therefore, sharing embarrassing content about a client would be an absolute breach of confidentiality and result in major penalties 💰.
⚠️ Ethical Conflicts ⚠️
Due to the sensitive nature of many law firms’ cases, attorneys, paralegals, and all other staff must be extra careful to avoid ethical conflicts on social media.
For example, an attorney who is friends on Facebook with a judge 👩⚖️ overseeing their case would be in violation of ethical standards. Likewise, connecting with the wrong person on social media could easily result in witness tampering.
Furthermore, many people don’t realize that lawyers who respond to a legal question online may accidentally establish an attorney-client relationship.
For example, responding to a Facebook friend’s status 💬 asking for legal advice could acquire unexpected ethical responsibilities! In order to keep yourself legally protected, stay away from blogs or forums asking for legal advice without official counsel.
⚠️ Risks of Private Use ⚠️
Your law firm should have a dedicated employee to keep watch of the business’ social media accounts for inappropriate posts, shares, or likes 👍. However, regulating your employees’ social media accounts is not as easy.
Of course, firm owners or partners will not necessarily be held responsible for their employees’ behavior on personal social media accounts.
However, inappropriate behavior by even one staff member could negatively impact a law firm’s image in the community. For example, an attorney posting risqué pictures on Facebook could affect potential clients’ perception 👀 of the firm for which they work.
Finally, legal professionals who choose to connect with prior clients on social media should proceed with caution.
Consider speaking to your employees about appropriate attorney-client relationships online 🌐, and the appropriate steps necessary to ensure legal protection.
⚠️ Industry-Specific Laws and Regulations ⚠️
The ABA provides resources for law firms utilizing social media, including a list of guidelines for law firms advertising their practice online.
For example, in 2018 the ABA adopted updated and revised rules regarding technological communications 📱. More specifically, Rule 7.2 was changed to reflect new types of social media marketing practices, such as paying for recommendations and reviews.
Additionally, while the ABA’s official Social Media Policy has not yet been published, some of the association’s rules from their Model Rules of Professional Conduct 📜 can be implemented into your law firm’s social media compliance strategy.
For example, the ABA Rule 1.6: Confidentiality Of Information describes the attorney-client relationship, specifically regarding the disclosure of confidential information.
Social media’s quick spread of information via “share” and “retweet” buttons means firms must be diligent in ensuring they are not 🚫 spreading confidential information in ANY way – even if they didn’t author it.
Overall, law firms should consider these plus a plethora of other legal concerns when it comes to using social media both professionally and for personal enjoyment.
Additionally, firm owners should be sure to create a social media compliance strategy that encompasses all of the points necessary to keep the firm and its employees safe 🛡️ from lawsuits.
Finally, law firms should always stay up-to-date on the latest social media compliance laws and regulations, and may want to consider hiring a social media attorney, should they require further assistance with their online presence.