By Gina Rubel
In Part I of Legal Marketing and Social Media Best Practices, I discussed Understanding the Rules of Professional Conduct. Once your firm has a solid grasp on the ethics rules, it is time to draft and implement a law firm social media policy.
Attorneys and law firm staff need to be taught that social media (also known as "social networking") is a term that describes the engagement in Internet-based social platforms that are visible to others. It is up to management to teach them that social media tools allow for the creation and exchange of user-generated content and that all social media is traceable and subject to the Rules of Professional Conduct. These networks include (but are not limited to):
- Audio / video sharing (Podcasting, YouTube, Webinars)
- Blogs and blog comments
- Commenting on news stories and other platforms online
- Directories (AVVO, Lawyers.com, SuperLawyers)
- Document sharing (Scribd, Slideshare)
- Geotagging (Foursquare, Facebook Places)
- Information Sharing (Chat Rooms, Listservs, Forums, Message Boards)
- Micro-blogs (Twitter, Google-plus)
- Photo sharing (Flickr, Photobucket, Shutterfly)
- Professional networks (LinkedIn, Legal OnRamp, JD Supra, Martindale Connected)
- Social bookmarking (Digg, Delicious)
- Social networks (Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn)
New platforms and applications for electronic devices (mobile, TV, PDAs, etc.) are being launched regularly. All of these increase the user's virtual footprint, introduce new marketing and public relations opportunities, and add to the amount of discoverable information online.
It is important that your firm's attorneys, management and staff understand how online behavior and relationships affect litigation and case outcomes. Your social media policy needs to make firm employees aware of the rules and ramifications of how their use of social media plays into:
- Attorney Communications with: Judges, Opposing Counsel, Witnesses, Parties, etc.
- Discovery / e-Discovery
- Expert Testimony
- Judges (Neutrals) Use of Social Media
- Juror Selection / Jury Instructions
- Party Communications
- Trial Publicity
- Witness Investigations
In addition to addressing the various forms of social media and how it affects the practice of law, your social media policy should also address:
- Individual Profiles - How They May and May Not Be Used
- Content and Language Use Best Practices
- Messaging Within Social Media - What May and May Not be Shared
- Confidentiality, Privacy, Potential Conflict Issues
- Employment Law Issues and Consequences For Violating the Firm's Social Media Policy/Procedures
Once your firm's policy is in place, educate your staff on what it means and how it is being implemented. Consider videotaping your training session so that you can share the video with new employees moving forward. Such a video will help HR communicate the firm's social media policy in the long-term while keeping your lawyers and staff out of hot water.
And if you don't believe me, I dare you to search any of the following online: Jill Filipovic of Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel (lawyer tweeting about NSA finding personal item in luggage), Deidre Dare of Allen & Overy (lawyer publishing sex-themed novel under pseudonym), Horace Hunter (lawyer blogging without disclaimer saying it's an ad and violates advertising rules). The last thing you want is your law firm mentioned in the headlines of The New York Times, The View, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Abovethelaw.com or The AM Law Daily.
Gina F. Rubel, Esq., 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, Gina is the author of Everyday Public Relations for Lawyers. Gina 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, 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.