Ethical Social Media Practices for Lawyers

There are several articles which interpret the ABA’s stance on the use of social media by lawyers. Below are my top 3 tips on how lawyers can maintain an ethical social media presence.

Tips on How Lawyers Can Maintain an Ethical Social Media Presence

1. Provide Adequate Disclaimers

If you use social media to connect with others regarding your law practice, make sure to include required ethical disclaimers in your user profile.  Here are some examples of shorthand ethical disclaimers: 

  1. Attorney Advertising
  2. RT ≠ Endorsement (For Twitter)
  3. Consult w/ Attorney 4 Legal Advice
  4. Licensed in CA (or applicable state)
  5. Tweets/Posts ≠ Legal Advice
The most important disclaimer a lawyer should use is “attorney advertising.”  As you know, a lawyer can be reprimanded for unethical advertisements.  The ABA allows for online advertising, but proper disclaimers must be specified within the advertisement when seeking to provide legal services to others for pecuniary gain.
The ABA has different rules governing messages to specific individuals versus the mass public in regard to the procurement of legal services for pecuniary gain (solicitation versus a mere electronic advertisement distinctions). Make sure you are familiar with each distinct rule.  Also, make sure to state that your comments/statements do not constitute legal advice.

2.  Exercise Due Diligence When Outsourcing Your Social Media Accounts

Maintaining a social media presence can be time consuming.  If you are considering to outsource your social media account(s), make sure the firm you choose is well versed in the ABA’s Model Ethical Rules and your State’s Ethic Rules governing lawyers.  You do not want to employ the services of a firm that will put you at risk of losing your license. Make sure the firm practices the rules regarding the following issues at minimum:

  1. Attorney Solicitation
  2. Attorney Advertisement
  3. Client Confidentiality
  4. Truthfulness as a Lawyer
  5. No Misleading Advertisements (Statements)
  6. Necessary Disclosures
If a social media firm posts on behalf of your business, provide a statement to your clients and/or audience that the opinions expressed within the statement is not yours, but that of the individual who wrote the post.  For instance,  you do not want someone posting tweets on your behalf under your user profile.  This may be considered misleading if you as an attorney did not create these statements, but is portrayed as such.  When in doubt, it is best to create your own post.
 

3. Maintain Client Confidentiality

 Maintaining client confidentiality may seem like a no-brainier, but attorneys are constantly reprimanded by the bar for releasing client confidences on social media websites.  If a user tries to contact you to discuss a legal issue via a public portal, never reply publicly.  You can send a direct email to the user account and provide the user with the ability to contact you through a secure method. Also, you never want to disclose any of your clients identities or legal issues.  The tips mentioned within this post primarily reference the ABA model rules.  Make sure to check your State model rules regarding the ethical implications of using social media.  Connect with me on Twitter for more social media tips! Please comment below with some of the social media practices you use to stay “ethical!”