By Gina F. Rubel
Special to the Legal
I recently had the pleasure to present "The Ethics of Social Media Marketing for Law Firms" with Paul Kazaras, of the Philadelphia Bar Association, for the Delaware Valley Law Firm Marketing Group. It was such a fun presentation, with me, a consummate social media user and Kazaras, a social media naysayer and avoider. Rest assured there was lots of banter back and forth. Kazaras is considered the Philadelphia Bar Association's ethics guru so we really had a lot to share with attendees.
We discussed how social media has infiltrated the practice of law at every point of the profession. From law firm marketing and public relations to employment law and litigation, social media impacts the way attorneys communicate and practice law. It is becoming more and more important for lawyers, legal administrators and professional marketers, from large and small firms alike, to understand how to effectively and ethically harness social media. As to best practices, this means:
1. Understanding the Rules of Professional Conduct
2. Implementing a Law Firm Social Media Policy
Part I of this blog addresses the Rules of Professional Conduct.
Understanding the Rules of Professional Conduct
In Pennsylvania (and most states that follow the ABA Model Rules ), the relevant rules of professional conduct include:
In past years when we discussed legal marketing ethics, we focused more on Rules 3.6 and 7.1 to 7.7. With the proliferation of social media, it has become important to address how the various forms of communication reach prospective clients, represented and unrepresented parties, how the various states handle legal marketing and how social media can lead to the unauthorized practice of law. In fact, the American Bar Association convened the ABA's Commission on Ethics 20/20, which addressed electronic communications in its recommendations. The commission concluded that "no new restrictions are necessary … but that lawyers would benefit from more guidance on how to use new client development tools in a manner that is consistent with the profession's core values."
I highly recommend that your law firm administrators, marketers, managing and marketing partners read the recommendations as I believe that they will pass in 2012 and that the Model Rules will be amended accordingly. It won't take long for the various states, including Pennsylvania, to follow suit. In the meantime, start implementing polices (the subject of my next blog) proactively now.
Gina F. Rubel is the owner of Furia Rubel Communications Inc., a public relations and marketing agency with a niche in legal communications. A former Philadelphia trial attorney, public relations and marketing expert, Rubel is the author of "Everyday Public Relations for Lawyers." Rubel and her PR and marketing firm have won numerous awards for legal communications, public relations, media relations, Web and graphic design, strategic planning and leadership. She maintains a blog at www.ThePRLawyer.com and is a contributor to National Law Review, The Legal Intelligencer Blog and The Huffington Post. You can find her on LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/ginafuriarubel or follow her on Twitter at http://twitter.com/ginarubel . For more information, go to www.FuriaRubel.com.