Avoid Ethical Missteps in Your Law Firm’s Social Media
I’ll spare you the introduction about how ubiquitous social media is because, well, it is. Love it or hate it, social media is vital in modern communication.
Since we last covered “Why Your Law Firm Needs a Social Media Presence,” not much has changed in the landscape of social media platforms. For Americans, YouTube and Facebook are still the most-used social media platforms, followed by Instagram in second. Others, like LinkedIn, Twitter and newcomer TikTok, fall somewhere further down the list.
Tips to Avoid Ethical Blunders
Although you’ll also want to be conscious of ethical issues when posting on your personal account, these tips are tailored to posts as your firm. As with all communications, you should familiarize yourself with Rules 7.1-7.5 of the Oklahoma Rules of Professional Conduct (ORPC) to ensure you are in compliance.
Avoid Specific Legal Advice
Sharing general legal information is very different from responding to specific legal questions. Posting law-related news or even general, hypothetical tips is generally considered appropriate – but if someone asks for specific help or advice, it’s best to direct them to contact your office so you can properly assess their needs. Similarly, although most people treat direct or private messages differently than public posts, lawyers must be cautious to avoid inadvertently creating an attorney-client relationship in either medium.
Use Caution When Advertising
ORPC Rule 7.2 specifically addresses advertising so, if you’re using any advertising, be sure to familiarize yourself. Additionally, when creating advertisements on social media, you’ll notice Facebook and other platforms have very specific rules what’s permitted. Text like “Are you considering [divorce, bankruptcy, etc.]?” are usually prohibited as they’re considered too personal. Topics that can be considered political may also be prohibited. You’ll want to be sure you only advertise in area(s) you’re licensed too. Specifying “Oklahoma” or even narrowing your target audience to cities or counties may be desirable as well.
You Are Not a Specialist
Except in extremely rare cases, Oklahoma does not have specialization designations. Most Oklahoma lawyers are conscientious of this, but be careful to avoid stating you “specialize in” any practice area. You may, however, use other phrases to describe your work and your practice. From ORPC Rule 7.4, you may say you or your firm “… does or does not practice in particular fields of law or limits [your] practice to or concentrates in particular fields of law.”
Monitor What Others Post
Keep an eye on what others post as replies or in community sections of your accounts. Although you aren’t directly responsible for what others post, you don’t want erroneous information associated with your firm, as the line between “read in the replies” and “read on the page” is easily blurred. You can either reply with correct information (even just “this information is not correct”), or you can delete the comment entirely. Because censoring reviews is tricky – and often impossible on most platforms – you can turn off reviews entirely to avoid worrying about them. If you do respond to comments or reviews, always be professional and take care to avoid disclosing privileged information.
Use Your Best Judgement
Social media is often blamed for relaxing social norms, but, as a lawyer, you understand the necessity of professionalism in communication. Exercising caution and heeding your best judgement will go a long way to avoiding missteps on social media management. If you have a question about ethics related to your professional or personal social media activity, you can always reach out to the OBA Office of Ethics Counsel for clarification.