Lawyers and social media – Are you protecting your firm’s digital identity? Part Three

You know your firm’s brand is everything. But how are you protecting it online? This is our final article in a three part series focusing on issues relevant to lawyers in the context of digital brand protection. You can read our first article on special issues with lawyer domain names here, and our second article on search engine advertising for lawyers here.

All firms expend significant resources to protect their brand. Business names and trademarks are registered, style guides, colour palettes and graphics are designed, while being the right ‘fit’ is essential for any staff hire. Non-compete and non-solicitation provisions are negotiated and ruthlessly enforced.

While each are undeniably important, have you ever Googled your firm? What about a specific office or lawyer? What have former employees said about your firm on Glassdoor? Blogs and social media pages devoted to exposing the juiciest parts of firm life flourish (then disappear). Any internet search will almost certainly reveal that there are less-than-flattering comments and reviews about your firm within the first few results available for everyone to read.

Social media use

Partners might be surprised to learn that their employees describe themselves, not only as lawyers, but a lawyer at a particular firm.

Many brush away the appearance of acting as a representative of the firm with a meaningless ‘my opinions are mine only and not my employer’ disclaimer on their profile. It’s not that easy. Simply identifying yourself as a lawyer is enough to find your LinkedIn profile and firm website profile through internet searching.

In an industry where firms overwhelmingly see their brand as their “people” (with overused marketing-phrases like ‘we’ve got the best lawyers, doing the best work; join us’ or ‘we’ve got the right team, with the right experience, for your matter; hire us’), I argue lawyers can never really separate personal social media and being a representative of their firm.

But for lawyers and firms, there’s something else to consider. Your paramount duty to the Court. Duties of fairness and candour. Prohibitions on engaging in dishonest or disreputable conduct. Preserving client confidentiality. Contacting witnesses or another lawyer’s clients. And that’s just a snapshot.

People don’t think consciously when using social media. Lawyers, in my experience, are no exception. There’s more at stake than potentially damaging your firm’s reputation. There might be disciplinary action too. Many of these issues seem to have been overlooked in the haste of law firms and other companies to establish social media policies. Even the policies are good, in my experience such policies are poorly understood by employees.

What can you do?

As a minimum, firms need to actively monitor and regularly consider and revisit these issues. We’ve set out a list below of some of the top questions to ask internally.

  1. Do you have a social media policy?
  2. Does it refer to a lawyer’s professional duties? Does it provide examples?
  3. How would you respond to a crisis involving one of your partners or employees on social media?

Only the best social media policies will explain social media use in the context of a lawyer’s professional duties. Any adverse publicity is amplified through social media. Just ask United. Lawyers active on social media might find a lawyer being disciplined for their own social media use an irresistible post, share or tweet. Can you risk one of your lawyers having a finding of unsatisfactory professional conduct (or professional misconduct) made in the age of social media?

Want to know more?

For lawyers considering the threats (and opportunities) social media has enormous potential. But that potential is surprisingly underutilised in the legal profession. Fortunately, it’s become an incredibly popular topic for writers. For anyone looking to improve their social media use, a few places to start include:

Our services

The Digital Lawyer is able to assist lawyers, firms and consultants with anything discussed in this article.

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