Lawyers, When Using Social Media, Protect Client Confidentiality and Relationships

Lawyers, Protect Client Confidentiality When Using Social Media

Nancy MyrlandAll Posts, Social Media, Social Media Ethics & Regulations Leave a Comment

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.

Listen or Read…Your Choice!

If you prefer to listen to this via my podcast, Legal Marketing Minutes, just click on the green button on the podcast player below. If you would rather read, I have rewritten this as a blog post below the player.

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.

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 represents your personality. 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?

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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 Legal Marketing Consultant

Nancy Myrland is a Marketing and Business Development Advisor, specializing in Content, Social & Digital Media. She helps lawyers and legal marketers grow by integrating all marketing disciplines in order to establish relationships and grow their practices. Also known as the LinkedIn Coach For Lawyers, she is a frequent LinkedIn trainer, as well as a content marketing specialist. She helps lawyers, law firms, and legal marketers learn and implement content, social and digital media strategies that cut through the clutter and are more relevant to their current and potential clients. Nancy also works with many firms and lawyers on Zoom and virtual presentation training and coaching to be the best they can be when presenting online.

As an early and constant adopter of social and digital media and technology, she also helps firms with blogging, podcasting, video marketing, voice marketing, livestreaming, and Zoom and virtual presentation strategy and training. She also helps lead select law firms through their online social media strategy when dealing with high-stakes, visible cases.

If you would like to reserve time to begin talking strategy or think through an issue you are having, you can do that here.

NOTE: If you would like to be notified when LinkedIn Course For Lawyers is accepting new students again (very soon), you can do that here.


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