Lawyers, Protect Client Confidentiality When Using Social Media

Nancy Myrland All Posts, Social Media, Social Media Ethics & Regulations Leave a Comment

[EP. 27] Lawyers, When Using Social Media, Protect Client Confidentiality and Relationships

I hear this concern often. Lawyers, legal marketing professionals, and others in law firms tell me that lawyers remain very concerned about how to stay out of trouble when posting in social media. They don’t want to jeopardize client relationships.

I Don’t Want To Get In Trouble

When conducting social media training, a common concern I run across has to do with attorneys and staff being afraid they will post something that will get them in trouble. Consequently, they hold back from using these tools because they don’t want to say something that will jeopardize an attorney-client relationship, or say something they’ll regret later.

I get it and I appreciate and respect those concerns. These are powerful tools we have at our disposal. They aren’t going away, so we need to make sure we use them appropriately and with the right approach and attitude.

Amazing Connections

These tools have the ability to form amazing connections with those we want to be connected to, but with the wrong attitude or approach, they have the ability to damage or end relationships, and even stop relationships before they ever start.

How To Protect Client Confidentiality

Let’s talk for a moment about client confidentiality and attorney-client relationships. In order to protect your attorney-client relationships, don’t post anything that has to do with:

  • Results
  • Mindset
  • Location
  • People involved
  • Matters
  • Fees
  • …or other details of your cases unless your clients want you to.

Even When Your Clients Agree, Be Very Careful

Even if your clients want you to, you also have to be very careful not to establish any expectations of future results. This can easily happen should you use language that implies that this is the type of result you can achieve for your clients in the future.

Always, always review legal and ethical restrictions that exist in every jurisdiction in which you and your firm practice. I want you to become familiar with every model rule pertaining to communication and what is and isn’t allowed.

My rule of thumb is that if you can’t say or do it in person, you definitely can’t say or do it online. It’s that easy.

Is It Okay To React When I Have Strong Feelings?

Every now and then, I get a question about whether lawyers should control emotional reactions on social media. A while back, someone posted this question, saying,

“How can we achieve the balance between rational and emotional thoughts?”

My interpretation of that question is “How do I control my urge to react emotionally to a topic or comment posted on social media that I feel strongly about when I know it could be controversial?” My answer? It boils down to inner strength, which you should already have in the profession that you are practicing.

You have to have inner strength and common sense and a good grasp of what is and isn’t ethical based on what we talked about a moment ago… This includes understanding the model rules of professional conduct in every jurisdiction in which you practice. This is really no different than your obligation to already have an understanding of those principles for ALL of your actions, whether in-person or online, so don’t shy away from these tools because you’re worried about saying or doing something that will harm your attorney-client relationship, or that you think will get emotional.

If you just go by these very, very simple common-sense rules, you should be just fine:

  • Don’t violate ethical rules.
  • Don’t fly off the handle like Frank Aquila did when he attacked Sara Huckabee Sanders on Twitter.
  • Use Common Sense.
  • Do what you know is smart and act like a professional.
  • If you follow these rules, trust me, you won’t get into trouble.

You don’t have to violate ethical rules or your own high standards to be interesting, controversial, or thought-provoking on social media. You need to find the right balance that doesn’t go against the rules you have at your fingertips, but that also has your personality built in. People want to get to know you, even if that means you are a little quirky, funny, sarcastic, happy, motivational, inquisitive, conversational, or a deep-thinker. These are the attributes that set you apart from others.

Bottom Line For Lawyers Who Care About Client Confidentiality When Using Social Media

Social media are amazing tools you should spend time getting to know. If not, you are missing out on some of the most powerful relationship-building tools we have been given in decades.

Don’t do the things we talked about at the beginning, and those are:

  • Don’t share your results, mindset, location, people involved, matters, fees, or other details about the cases unless your clients want you to.
  • Even when clients say they want you to share their details because there’s some strategy involved, make sure it is ethical, then get it in writing.
  • Don’t ever trust you have the permission to use their words on an indefinite basis, and that it’s okay to post all over social media.
  • Make sure you get in writing specifically what they’ve given you permission to talk about.

Let me know if you have any more questions about all of this, okay?

You’re Invited

I invite you to join my Facebook group where we discuss marketing, business development, content, social and digital media, and you can find that right here. When you do, let me know, this is how you found out about the group, okay?

Subscribe To My Podcast and/or Amazon Alexa Flash Briefing?

You might have noticed the podcast player at the beginning of this post. This blog post is also published as a podcast and an Amazon Alexa Flash Briefing. I’d love to have you subscribe to either or both! You can do that on iTunes/Apple Podcasts right here, Spotify here, Pocket Casts here, and you can subscribe to my Amazon Alexa Flash Briefing here. So many choices!

Let me know in the comments if you are a subscriber. Podcast and Flash Briefing analytics don’t show us who subscribes, so it’s always nice to know someone is listening!

Nancy Myrland, Myrland Marketing & Social Media and LinkedIn Coach For LawyersNancy Myrland is a Marketing and Business Development Planning Consultant, and a Content, Social & Digital Media Speaker, Trainer & Advisor, helping lawyers and legal marketers grow by integrating all marketing disciplines. She is a frequent LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook for Business trainer, as well as a content marketing specialist. She helps lawyers, law firms, and legal marketers grow their practices by making their marketing and business development efforts more relevant to their current and potential clients. She also helps lead law firms through their online digital strategy when dealing with high-stakes, visible cases. As an early and constant adopter of social and digital media and technology, she also helps firms with blogging, podcasts, video marketing, voice marketing, and livestreaming. If you would like to reserve an hour of Nancy’s time to begin talking strategy or think through an issue you are having, you can do that here. She can also be reached via email here.

 

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