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Your law firm is monitoring your social media – act accordingly

If you work at a law firm, there’s a pretty good chance that your employer is monitoring your social media activity.

Social media use in the legal world is a giant trap for the unwary. There are ethical considerations, liability issues, branding implications, client concerns, and recruiting strategies on the line.

This digital public forum is increasingly at front-of-mind for law firm owners and partners. 81% of law firms maintain some sort of presence on social media, and the line between personal and business life is becoming increasingly blurred in our connected world.

In light of all this, it’s not surprising that many law firms monitor their employees’ social media posts.

In this article, we’ll discuss some of the strategies employees can use to stay out of hot water with their legal employers.

Pay attention to your firm’s social media policy

To start off, let’s recognize that most employee social media posts are of no concern to your law firm.

Pictures of your three-year-old’s birthday party or your trip to Machu Picchu are fine, and probably encouraged. After all, those kinds of posts make you relatable and attractive to potential clients.

There are other kinds of posts, however, that most firms strongly discourage.

These days, most of those things are set forth in a comprehensive Social Media Policy (typically located within your Employee Manual). If you haven’t done so already, you should familiarize yourself with your firm’s policy.

In all likelihood, it discourages things like: (1) identifying yourself on social media as an employee of the firm; (2) taking extreme positions on political, cultural, or legal issues; or (3) doing anything else that would jeopardize the firm, its brand, or its ability to generate profits.

Let’s talk about some of the specific things that would fall into that broad third category.

Keep the courtroom out of it

For litigators, there’s nothing quite like coming off of a freshly completed trial. You’ve worked hard, you’ve received a verdict, and now you have all sorts of pent-up emotions just waiting to be released.

Don’t do it on social media.

In the past, lawyers have published post-trial social media posts that do things like criticize the judge or jury, boast about manipulative trial tactics, or celebrate victories in insensitive ways.

While the emotions behind those posts may be well-deserved, they can put you, your firm, and your clients at jeopardy for bad press, sanctions, or appeals.

When it comes to celebrating (or lamenting) your trial efforts, it’s best to keep things old-school.

In other words, take your emotions, colleagues, and clients to the local watering-hole for a post-trial decompression session.

Mind your ethical rules

Social media is ultimately a form of advertising.

In California, for example, the revised Rules of Professional Conduct concerning advertising now specifically apply to social media. That means the constraints of rules like RPC 7.2 apply to the things you do online.

Consequently, you cannot pay someone to give you a glowing review on Facebook, nor can you make posts about your expertise unless you meet the other ethical guidelines for doing so.

As a general rule, it’s best to stay away from self-promotion on your personal accounts. If you want to create a business page for your personal brand, go for it. Just treat it like an advertising page and keep your personal accounts completely separate.

Don’t give legal advice on social media

If you ignore every other tip in this blog, please don’t ignore this one.

The act of providing even the simplest of legal advice via social media is fraught with problems. To make matters worse, if other users know you’re an attorney or other legal professional, you’ll get asked for advice all the time.

Don’t fall victim to temptation.

There are so many potential downfalls to giving legal advice via social media.

First off, if you’re a non-attorney and you’re giving legal advice, you could be engaging in the unlicensed practice of law, and creating a permanent record of it in the process. Don’t think for a second your law firm employer won’t be upset about that.

Even if you are an attorney, any time you provide off-the-cuff advice on social media, you run the risk of creating a conflict of interest.

How do you know the person you’re providing advice to isn’t the employee of an opponent, or the opponent himself operating under an online pseudonym?

Moreover, how do you know he’s not the arch-rival of the bankruptcy attorney in your firm who sits three floors away from you?

You don’t know. You couldn’t possibly know.

So, for the sake of your career, it’s best to avoid handing out advice online.

Let’s assume you get past those hurdles.

Unfortunately, you still have to worry that your online advice has created an attorney-client relationship.

What if the advice you’ve casually doled out on a random Thursday night with a glass of wine in your hand turns out to be wrong? Well, now you may be staring down the barrel of an attorney malpractice lawsuit.

Oh, and don’t forget that if your social media profile even hints at your affiliation with your law firm, your negligence may be imputed onto the firm.

In light of all these risks (most of which can get you fired from your law firm job), it’s probably best to downplay your legal career while interacting with the public via social media.

Use common sense

Finally, we would be remiss if we didn’t talk about the rampant emotionality on social media these days. It seems that everywhere you turn, people take extreme positions just to stir up trouble.

You may find yourself tempted to engage. We’re all tempted to engage now and again. But let us remind you that your employer is probably watching what you say and do online.

In light of that, try to remember the advice one industry expert has for attorneys who engage in online banter:

“If you wouldn’t say it in front of your grandmother, don’t say it on social media.”

Most people, especially those older than 35, tend to think of social media as a way to stay connected with friends and family. Anything you post is a way to communicate with your social circle, right?

However, that’s not really how social media works anymore.

Instead of being a message board where you can chat with your old schoolmates and share updates with distant relatives, modern social media is more of a public platform where your posts are announced to the whole world. It’s not a private conversation; it’s a massive public broadcast.

Every time you’re tempted to dash off an update in the heat of the moment or drop a scathing reply on someone’s post, imagine yourself saying it on a stage in front of hundreds of thousands of people you may or may not know.

Every time you’re tempted to dash off an update in the heat of the moment or drop a scathing reply on someone’s post, imagine yourself saying it on a stage in front of hundreds of thousands of people you may or may not know.


  • Jennifer Anderson

    Jennifer Anderson is the founder of Attorney To Author, where she helps legal professionals bring their book projects to life. She was a California attorney for nearly two decades before becoming a freelance writer, marketing/branding consultant, ghostwriter, and writing coach. Her upcoming book, Breaking Out of Writer's Block, Exercises and inspirations for getting the words out of your head and onto the page, is due out in September 2023.

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