According to the latest research, a lot of lawyers are now using social media for career and client development,1 and you might be one of them.
As social media becomes a key means of communication and advertising within the legal field, you and your firm have a unique responsibility. Ethics committees are turning more attention to what lawyers are posting online, but this doesn’t mean that lawyers can’t benefit from the technology. Abide by the professional conduct rules regarding communication and advertising, and your firm can do to benefit from social media.
LinkedIn can be important for career development for individual lawyers and business development for firms, but it can also have an impact on client development depending on the nature of your practice. A good LinkedIn presence can very well lead to new business and new opportunities. Here’s what you can do to benefit:
- Create a LinkedIn profile that is professional, engaging and up to date.
- Join appropriate LinkedIn groups, such as alumni associations, trade groups and area of interest groups.
- Make a LinkedIn page for your firm that includes relevant information about your business.
- Pay extra attention to your profile, connections and content if you are in the job market, as LinkedIn is a primary resource for recruiters, search firms and human resource departments.
- Do consult your state’s specific Model Rules before posting statuses and comments, as some states require a stricter level of compliance than the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct 7.1-7.4.
What to avoid on LinkedIn:
- Avoid stating or implying on your profile that you have a specialty in a particular field of law, with the exceptions of admiralty or patent law, although it is permissible to state in which fields you practice.2
- Avoid any other misrepresentation of your expertise by others on LinkedIn, as policing the content of your endorsements and recommendations is the responsibility of the lawyer.3
- Avoid using LinkedIn’s messaging and connect features to contact non-lawyers in a way that may be considered a prohibited solicitation. Sending a message or connect request, can be seen as offering to provide legal services or as pecuniary gain.4
Facebook can be equally important to career and client development, even if the impact is often indirect. Many lawyers benefit from using Facebook to stay top of mind with existing clients and colleagues. You can use Facebook to paint a picture of yourself as an interesting person who is engaged in professional activities, while still abiding by the rules. Here’s how:
- Do post about professional activities. Share posts about teaching a CLE, attending a law conference, and so forth.
- Do post helpful content. Share articles about changes to law that would be of interest to your Facebook friends and followers.
- Do post positive personal updates. A post about a new puppy, a trip you took or a cultural event you attended can be a great icebreaker for conversations and strengthen personal and professional bonds.
On the other hand, here’s what you should avoid on Facebook:
- Avoid statements that could be deemed “false or misleading” by an ethics committee. This can include references to specific jury award amounts or promises a lawyer can get similar favorable results for other clients, which could create an unjustified expectation of results that one may be able to achieve.5
- Avoid using Facebook to ask friends for reviews and referrals, discuss private information, connect with represented third parties or otherwise advertise or communicate in ways prohibited by your state’s Model Rules.
Used properly, lawyers can benefit greatly from the use of social media. There are many ways for you to be active on social media and reap the rewards professionally. However, lawyers must be vigilant to abide by all rules of professional conduct online and keep up to date with any changes. Doing so will allow you to enjoy social media while avoiding any negative consequences.
Information provided by Attorney Protective is not intended as legal advice. This publication provides best practices for use in connection with general circumstances, and ordinarily does not address specific situations. These best practices are not intended to meet or establish the standard of care, and sometimes recommend practices that exceed the standard of care. Specific situations should be discussed with legal counsel licensed in the appropriate jurisdiction. By publishing practice and risk prevention tips, Attorney Protective neither implies nor provides any guarantee that claims can be prevented by use of the suggested practices. Though the contents of Attorney Protective’s Best Practice Database have been carefully researched, Attorney Protective makes no warranty as to the accuracy, applicability or timeliness of the content. Anyone wishing to reproduce any part of the Attorney Protective Best Practices Database content must request permission from Attorney Protective by calling 877-728-8776 or sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Additionally the rules cited in the contents of this article may have since changed. You should check the laws and model rules in your state for specific information on the topics addressed here.
1. ABA Legal Technology Survey Report, 2015.
2. Mod. Rules Prof. Con. 7.4.
3. Mod. Rules Prof. Con. 7.4.
4. Mod. Rules. Prof. Con. 7.3(a).
5. Mod. Rules Prof. Con. 7.1.