Social media is great. It increases your network for new business. It helps you build a personal brand. It also keeps you in tune with developments in the law. However, when you’re active on social media there are some pitfalls to watch out for.
Don’t be inaccurate or misleading
The Solicitors Regulation Authority Code of Conduct states as a publicity outcome that ‘your publicity in relation to your firm or in-house practice or for any other business is accurate and not misleading, and is not likely to diminish the trust the public places in you and the provision of legal services’. Social media would be covered as a form of publicity. You can use social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn to provide information, but your content must be correct. It’s therefore wise to check the accuracy of everything before you post.
Avoid heated arguments
Remember that two key SRA principles are that you must act with integrity and behave in a way that maintains the trust that the public places in you and in the legal profession. Anyone can read your posts and the internet is a public place. Someone might leave a negative comment about your post or disagree on a particular aspect of your post. Sometimes people can be rude when replying. In all situations though, you need to be courteous, respectful and watch the tone as well as the content of your communications. The SRA ethical guidelines state that: ‘It is advisable to avoid getting drawn into heated debates or arguments; comments designed to demean or insult are likely to diminish public confidence in the profession.’
Don’t give specific legal advice
There is nothing wrong with providing general advice on an area of the law, but it’s sensible not to advise someone on a particular issue. A retainer could arise by implication and there could, for example, be insurance issues.
Beware of confidentiality
It’s important to maintain client confidentiality. It may seem obvious but you should not refer to a client or their case on social media without their consent. Even if you don’t mention the client by name be careful to ensure that the client could not be identified from what you state.
Also, you should avoid sending confidential communications to your client via social media unless the client agrees and you are confident about security.
Check your employer’s social media policy
Apart from setting out prohibited social media uses, such as making discriminatory or defamatory comments, your employer may have issued guidance on how to use social media for work purposes. The guidance could include whether consent is necessary before posting comments about the firm, what type of information to publish and house-style.
Sometimes employees are given separate work social media accounts, which might make it easier to distinguish between posting on work issues and personal matters. Whatever the type of post though, make sure that the content could not in any way damage your employer’s reputation.
Matt Gingell is a specialist employment lawyer based in London