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Self-promotion is a critical aspect of your career as an attorney. You want to share your success with your audience and continue to grow your law firm with new clientele. If you are running a successful firm but failing to engage in self-promotion, potential clients are not going to learn of the value you could provide to them during difficult situations. Social media is an excellent tool for advertising your services. Still, you need to be aware of the inherent dangers of bragging on social media to avoid potential ethical violations.
Ethical Dangers of Bragging on Social Media
Social media can be an excellent tool for attorneys. However, if platforms are misused, it can spell trouble for a law firm. Let us take a look at some of the most common ethical dangers you could encounter when using social media to advertise your firm and services.
Social Media Posts
As an attorney, you have the ability to generate professional social media accounts for your law firm. Oftentimes, these accounts are a valuable way to reach potential clients. However, lawyers need to ensure they are not ethically violating standards when creating profiles or publishing posts. Posted information needs to be factual and contain any required disclaimers.
Blogging the Law
Blogging is another common way to connect with potential clients. Your blog posts may highlight frequently asked questions about specific legal topics or cover topics like new laws that could potentially impact future clients’ cases. While you are allowed to share your blog posts on social media, it is essential to understand that blogs are considered educational material. Avoid posting a blog with the intention of encouraging someone to retain an attorney.
Posting Professional Successes
It is normal and reasonable to want to promote your law firm’s successes on social media. However, any posts are subject to the ethics rules on advertising. For example, suppose you post about a recent successful case and conclude the post with a statement that appears to be an active quest for clients. In that case, you need to make sure your post is not misleading in any way and does not breach any confidentiality standards.
Intentionally Soliciting Business
Social media advertising messages shared beyond the scope of your followers, friends, and connections are generally subject to solicitation guidelines. If you are sending messages to recipients who have not opted to receive them, you need to ensure it is clear that the information is advertising material.
Attorneys need to be well-versed on client confidentiality requirements, including rules related to social media. You are not allowed to reveal any information regarding the representation of a client unless they have provided explicit and informed consent. In the event a client does not consent to have information shared, you are only allowed to post information authorized under your area’s professional rules of conduct.
Your Obligation to Professional Responsibility and Advertising
While lawyers are allowed to advertise their services on social media platforms and their websites, they need to abide by the legal advertising rules set by the American Bar Association (ABA). The ABA outlines how lawyers can communicate information about their services. Per RUle 7.2: Communication Concerning a Lawyer’s Services: Specific Rules, you must abide by the following:
- Never claim to be an expert. Even if you have a high level of expertise in a specific practice area, it is against the rules of the ABA to call yourself a specialist or an expert. A lawyer is only allowed to imply they are an expert in a particular area if they have been certified by an ABA-accredited organization in their state, district, or United States territory.
- Avoid misleading or false statements. Blatant lies or misdirecting comments regarding your legal services should never be used. Not only could you be misleading potential clients, but you may also violate legal advertising rules.
- Follow the rules for testimonials. It is no secret that positive reviews from past clients are powerful, especially when it comes to attracting new clients. However, you need to follow the rules for your specific jurisdiction before posting testimonials anywhere on your website or social media. For example, you cannot compensate clients in exchange for a positive review. Clients must recommend your legal services on their own accord.
- Do not directly solicit your services. Understand the difference between advertising and solicitation. If you are advertising as an attorney, you are informing potential clients about your services. Solicitation, which may be unethical, is when an attorney targets a specific person or group with an advertisement.
- Be aware of what information you can advertise. The information you are allowed to include on social media advertisements typically varies by area. For example, you may not be allowed to include information like pending case information, fake legal documents, or fictitious cases or statements.
Once you have a better understanding of your ethical advertising obligations as an attorney, you can work on creating compelling social media posts without worrying about violating any guidelines.
Social Media Tips for Lawyers
As an attorney, it is your responsibility to maintain competence on the law and changes to its practice. Per ABA Rule 1.1, “To maintain the requisite knowledge and skill, a lawyer should keep abreast of changes in the law and its practice, including the benefits and risks associated with relevant technology, engage in continuing study and education and comply with all continuing legal education requirements to which the lawyer is subject.” Social media and advertising fall under the category of relevant technology. To ethically navigate social media, consider the following tips.
Explain Representation Properly
The phrasing you choose in text posts, videos, and infographics needs to be clear on all social media platforms. You must not use language that could form an attorney-client relationship with a potential client. You also need to be careful not to provide legal advice. To avoid representation issues, use vocabulary that states where you are licensed and that your content is not intended to give advice or form an attorney-client relationship.
Choose Connections Carefully
Attorneys are not allowed to represent clients with whom they have a potential conflict of interest. As such, it is important to be careful when it comes to accepting connections on social media accounts. You want to avoid the appears of a conflict of interest at all costs, and remember that you can unintentionally present a conflict with a client based on social media contacts.
Make Staff Aware of Obligations
Attorneys are not the only individuals who must abide by ethical social media practices. Any non-lawyer person employed or retained by a law firm needs to be aware of their obligations, as you could be held responsible for any content they share. If, for example, a staff member at your law firm makes an unethical post on Facebook, you can be held responsible for their actions. As such, you will need to ensure the content is removed as quickly as possible. The same goes for clients, depending on the nature of the post. Also, remember that you cannot ask another person to post anything on social media that they would not post themselves.
Stay in the Public Realm
While you and your team have the right to due research during the jury selection process, you need to remember related ethical practices. If you are researching jurors on social media, you are only allowed to access content that is available to the public. Never attempt to view anything that is only available via special access. That means not joining private groups or sending private messages to review private or restricted content.
Keep Your Personal Profile Private
One of the most important social media practices you can implement as an attorney is to keep your personal profile private and completely separate from any professional profiles for or related to your law firm. You should also avoid sharing content on personal and professional accounts that could be viewed as legal advice. To prevent potential ethical issues between your personal and professional social media pages, consider limiting the number of people that can find your personal profile. You will also want to implement any necessary security features to protect the content you share on a personal basis. Doing so will lower your risk of accidentally violating any rules regarding ethical conduct on social media.
How Law Quill Can Help Lawyers With Social Media
As lawyers continue to use digital communication to connect with potential clients, staying abreast of social media and advertising rules is imperative. Adhering to the rules will avoid potential violations and associated penalties and help you create ethical, effective advertising without bragging on social media.
We are here to help and would welcome the opportunity to visit with you for free regarding your law firm website’s content, and how we can take these tasks off your plate! Schedule a free visit with us by scheduling a quick phone or zoom call at your convenience on our calendar today. You can also email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.