We hear and read about social media fiascos from the legal community with growing frequency. Lawyers (senior and junior alike) spouting inappropriate comments, revving up commotion and facing backlash. Some behaviour from lawyers eventually leads to warnings, fines and even being struck-off for “unacceptable behaviour not befitting the profession”. In addition, there is also the possibility of being sued directly in a civil action or being arrested on criminal charges.
We understand the basics, but have we truly mastered our language and choice of words when engaging on social media? A recent disciplinary matter decided by the Bar Standards Board is a pertinent reminder that as professionals, one "must not behave in a way which is likely to diminish the trust and confidence which the public places in you or in the profession". In this case, the barrister concerned was unregistered and not practicing when he posted several “seriously offensive” tweets. The barrister’s offensive tweets were about various groups of people including Jews, pro-Zionists, Muslims and people whom he referred to as "chavs”. The tribunal disbarred him.
While most of us would not dream of tweeting offensive, racist tweets, this case serves as a reminder to all of us to think twice before commenting on social media channels.
There are some absolute “no-nos” for lawyers to observe and there are several good articles out there, including this one by Adam Wakeling and this older one by the New York Times. If you are already on social media or are about to embark on a corporate social media strategy for your law firm, the recommended starting point would be the professional and ethical rules shared by your own professional body, for example, this one by the Law Society of England & Wales.
It is possible to make good use of social media to effectively market one’s professional brand and well as one’s legal practice. Each platform has its own subtle nuances. Firms that have used social media for some time report significant successes in terms of winning new clients, building relationships with fellow professionals and even establishing dialogues with journalists. Personal social media accounts owned by lawyers have also been used successfully by recruitment agencies and headhunters in what is known as “social recruiting”.
If you are unsure how you or your firm should approach social media, then call us for an obligation-free discussion. We work with law firms on their social media strategies including providing content and thought leadership. We are happy to share our own experiences as well as what has and has not worked for other lawyers.
To learn from others’ mistakes, read the following:
- Lawyer Takes Racist Slight To Tribunal Of Social Media
- Barrister faces 'career suicide' for exposing lawyer's sexist remark
- Lawyer is suspended partly for his 'racist, sexist, homophobic and offensive' language
- Council solicitors attacked for social media 'gloating' with picture of cat after tribunal win against parents of special needs child
- Lawyers told: don’t be put off social media by barrister fined over tweets
- Lawyer Loses License Due To Overzealous Social Media Activism For Client
- Lawyer disciplined for online comment about ex-client