The Ethics of Social Media, Pt. 1 [Slideshow]

Part 1: The Importance of Social Media to the Modern Law Practice
Part 2: Marketing Your Practice on Social Media
Part 3: Personal Use of Social Media
Part 4: Social Media in Discovery
Part 5: Social Media as a Research Tool
Part 6: Advise Your Clients Wisely! (June 12, 2014)

ethics of social media 1Lawyers aren’t the best at adapting to trends in technology, so it’s really no surprise that we haven’t taken to Social Media very well. Most practicing attorneys are likely quite happy to live and work in absolute ignorance of what’s being said on Twitter and the best new video on Vine. However, as time goes by, the fact of the matter is, social media is here to stay.

However, just knowing about social media probably isn’t going to be sufficient to remain relevant nowadays. Before you dive in headfirst, make sure you’re equipped to survive (or at least enough so you won’t routinely commit egregious ethical violations)!

This presentation is a guide for attorneys through the complex world that is the Ethics of Social Media. In Part 1, I explain the what and the why of social media involvement for lawyers. Check it out:

Social media is becoming more and more necessary for lawyers, and not just so that you can follow your favorite celebrities while at work. Social media can impact an number of aspects of your law practice, not least of which is your clients and their cases.

In Lester v. Allied Concrete Co., Nos. CL08-150, 09-223, the plaintiff, who filed a wrongful death lawsuit against a trucking company that owned a truck involved in the accident that killed plaintiff’s wife. However, between his wife’s death and filing his lawsuit, plaintiff took several pictures at a bar, wearing a shirt that read “I [Heart] Hot Moms.” Then uploaded them to his Facebook account. His attorney told him to “clean up” his Facebook page, getting rid of pictures like that.

Plaintiff took it a step further, deactivating his account, and denying its existence in discovery. The judge found out. Following a jury verdict in the plaintiff’s favor, the judge cut his recovery in half (originally $10.6 million), and fined plaintiff’s attorney $542,000 and plaintiff himself $180,000.

The moral: There are MANY important reasons for attorneys to be proficient at social media.

What makes social media different? Three main things:

  1. Reach – Social media moves farther than traditional because it doesn’t require a publisher, a printing press, or a distribution network.
  2. Accessibility – The tools needed for anyone to participate are low cost (or free), easy to find, and easy to use.
  3. Immediacy – A social media isn’t bounded by geography – your message reaches your audience within seconds, no matter where they are.

Your clients and your kids are on social media, you knew that already. What’s more important, judges, your partners, and your competition are on social media too. Over the past three years, social media use by lawyers and law firms has increased significantly.

Now that you understand how important social media is for attorneys, it’s time to make sure you’re using it effectively and responsibly…

… in Part 2, coming soon.

  • http://www.myrlandmarketing.com Nancy Myrland Marketing|Social

    Nice post and slidedeck, Brian. Lawyers, like everyone else who has held Social Media at arm’s length, discover that Social Networking isn’t really that intimidating once they start to investigate and use the tools.

    I typically recommend that lawyers start with one site,two if they’re really enthusiastic about it, getting some guidance if they need or want it, then using it until they feel comfortable with it. Before long, that site’s nuances, its opportunities, its tone, and its advantages and/or drawbacks will become obvious. Then it enters the stage of “finding your voice,” almost like we see happen in blogging, where attorneys realize it’s just conversation, and it’s similar to having these conversations face-to-face.

    The ethics restrictions, as you point out, are the same, the personality should be the same as in-person, the frequency is ramped up a bit, and it takes less time to reach more people. The end result is to get to know those people with whom we want to do business better, and to add that offline component to when geographically possible.

    • http://www.thecyberadvocate.com/brian-focht/ Brian Focht

      Nancy,

      That is an excellent step-by-step approach, I really think a lot of attorneys and law firms could benefit through such a method (and I’m sure many already have)!

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