Holy social media lawman…should lawyers use Twitter and Facebook?

The legal profession and social media
To tweet or not to tweet, that is the question.

Numerous surveys indicate that social media networks are an important source of new work and we are all glued to our smartphones and tablets sharing views and information with a global audience. It therefore seems a rhetoric or after the event question to ask whether and how lawyers should use social media. 

However, when you delve beneath the surface of social media, questions arise for example about confidentiality and the appropriateness of on-line connections between lawyers involved in ongoing transactions or disputes or even between lawyers and judges. In addition issues about liability for employees activities and on-line reputation management need to be factored in too.

Scottish guidance
Clear guidance and policies on social media are key but are still not in place in many organisations.  The good news is that guidance is at hand for Scottish lawyers. Recently the Law Society of Scotland issued guidelines on the use of social media covering topics such as business opportunities, ethical and professional considerations and security of confidential information. A copy can be located here.

The guidelines were prepared in conjunction with the Law Society of Scotland Technology Committee and as a committee member I know they formed part of a wider global research programme on the impact of online social media on the legal profession carried out by the International Bar Association (IBA).

An international overview
The IBA report (The Impact of Online Social Networks on the Legal Profession and Practice) is described as the first global report on the issue of social media use in the legal fraternity canvassing the attitudes of 47 bar associations. The submission made by the Law Society of Scotland is referred to and quoted throughout the IBA report and demonstrates a practical and positive attitude towards the use of social media. A copy of the report can be found here.

It is interesting to note that in many countries there are significant concerns about whether it is appropriate for lawyers to use and engage on social media platforms and cultural differences may need to be borne in mind when aiming to connect with lawyers and professionals in other countries.

Clearly social media is a key part of day to day professional and personal life opening up fantastic business and networking opportunities. The genie is not going to go back in the bottle, and nor should it, but the old adage of think before you click/tweet/post/link is even more important as our digital footprints grow.

Robert Buchan

2 Responses to “Holy social media lawman…should lawyers use Twitter and Facebook?”

  1. 1 Rich July 5, 2012 at 11:18 pm

    it’s always interesting that Linkedin rarely gets mentioned in these kind of posts, yet for many companies, especially law firms where lawyers think that linkedin is the best socia platform to be on, this actually poses a far greater risk. one might make hundreds of connections on linkedin through their current position and simply export all those contacts to a handy spreadsheet to take to a competitor. if you were found to be doing that with your outlook account you would probably find yourself in trouble fairly quickly

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