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Like financial professionals, attorneys bear the burden of using good sense and propriety online.  Would that everyone bore a similar burden! (but I digress).

Social Media: Ethics & Best Practices for Attorneys

Like financial professionals, attorneys bear the burden of using good sense and propriety online.  Would that everyone bore a similar burden! (but I digress).

Friday morning I co-facilitated a continuing education seminar for the Mecklenburg County Bar on social media with Andy Ciordia and Ted Claypoole . The attorneys asked great questions and the three of us presenting enjoyed the lively discussion.

Peppering his ethics guidance with jaw-dropping anecdotes of ethical lapses by legal professionals, Ted boiled everything down to four categories of concern:

  • Talking too loosely
  • Improper investigation (pretexting)
  • Sites that don’t provide room for proper disclaimers (think: Twitter)
  • Advertising Rules

I’m unqualified to say anything about legal ethics, but from a middle-aged lay person’s vantage point,  much of what Ted said seemed like common sense and good manners: don’t say anything about someone behind their back that you wouldn’t say to their face; don’t misrepresent yourself or your behavior; and don’t tell a judge you need a continuance because your father died if your Facebook page shows you were getting smashed at your college roommate’s wedding!

Advice for blogging, Facebook and Twitter

Andy and I showed several examples of what to do and not to do on the big three social media platforms:

Blogging: We didn’t need to dwell on the oft-repeated advice to publish frequently — they’d all heard it.  We took it further to show how you can subscribe to content feeds to supplement your own articles but also warned to keep non-pertinent content off your site. We showed an example of an otherwise-good blogsite by a divorce lawyer who inexplicably featured an article on SEO and Google.

Huh? Stick to your knitting.

Facebook: We see lots of lawyers using their personal FB profile as a professional site. Some even call it “The Family Law Firm of Jane Doe” or similar appellations — a big no-no and a violation of FB’s terms of service. FB created “Pages” for commercial use.  Go to my AUTHOR PAGE of FB and you’ll see how it differs from the Facebook Page.

Other observations: Some lawyers don’t engage the public in discussions, only BROADCAST their blog posts and speaking events. Still others don’t moderate the spam that users place on their pages. In one page we showed a firm that didn’t remove vulgarities and insults. It’s YOUR page, YOU decide what stays and goes. If you don’t tend to your social media outposts, clients might ask how closely you pay attention to the other details of your practice (including their work).

Twitter: The main concern Andy and I expressed here is lack of engagement. Most of what we saw lawyers do is BROADCAST new blog posts or news of the firm. Blech. If you’re not engaging people on Twitter, don’t waste your time with it.

If you’re unsure where to take your social media marketing efforts, reach out. If I don’t have the answers, Andy or Ted will.

About Tamela M. Rich

From Charlotte, NC, Tamela writes books, articles, speeches and presentations for business professionals. From "the road" she writes about the people, places and experiences she discovers and the life lessons she learns from them. Invite her to share some of her lessons from the road at your next event!

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