Having a strong social media policy at your law firm clears the way for you to use social media with confidence.
With a strong online presence, you can connect with potential clients and grow your law firm. But without a social media policy, you may put your law firm's reputation at risk.
When you create a clear policy for posting and interacting online, you put yourself in a position to maintain ethical standards and client confidentiality while still spreading your message.
Whether you manage your own social media or outsource your law firm’s social media marketing, here's what lawyers need to know about social media policies.
Does Your Law Firm Need a Social Media Policy?
Every law firm can benefit from a structured social media policy.
Social media offers a number of opportunities to lawyers. Many lawyers use social media to connect with prospective clients. By sharing how they can help potential clients, they build a marketing channel that helps grow their law firms.
At the same time, social media can open you up to some ethical complications. While social media is an excellent marketing tool, there are potential risks.
All businesses face risks on social media. For example, businesses need policies to prevent unprofessional conduct. They need to know how they'll react to negative reviews or comments.
But law firms must also consider other issues.
What you post may brush up against local or state bar association compliance rules. Or it can conflict with privacy issues for clients.
With a law firm social media policy in place, you mitigate those risks. You also develop ways to deal with any problems that arise.
This gives you the power to start building your online presence and market your law firm effectively on social media channels.
To get the most out of a law firm social media policy, it's important to consider the key aspects that go into it.
Key Components of an Effective Social Media Policy
A social media policy lays out what kind of content goes on your law firm's social media channels. It also covers issues that extend into employees’ personal usage of social media, too.
Your law firm's social media policy should include rules and statements about:
- Maintaining client confidentiality and respecting attorney-client privilege
- Compliance with industry standards and rules
- Regulating employee social media usage while respecting their personal freedoms
Before creating your own policy, read through local, state, and national bar association rules on attorney advertising. Look for rules on ethical advertising and the danger of misleading statements. These will help you define the baseline of your internal policy.
With these key aspects in mind, you can tailor a bespoke policy to your law firm's specific needs.
Step 1: Define the Policy's Purpose, Scope, and Stakeholders
Open your law firm's social media policy document by creating the foundation. Name the purpose and scope of the policy in relation to the use of the law firm's social media posts and channels.
You'll also want to identify the key stakeholders and decision-makers. This includes thinking about who signs off on official posts made on the law firm's accounts.
In this opening section, mention what rules you must follow in line with your bar association. Conclude by naming the objectives and goals of your policy.
Step 2. Develop Guidelines for Content Creation, Sharing, and Engagement
A good social media policy has clear guidelines for posting and engaging with content on social media.
Whether you use a staff member or an outsourced social media marketing agency for posting, these set specific rules of conduct.
This includes naming:
- Best practices for developing content
- What kinds of content can you will share (text posts, images, videos, etc.)
- Which platforms you approve of for law firm social media use
- Plans for monitoring and addressing negative comments online
- Goals to encourage engagement and interaction with followers
If you use more than one platform, you may want to craft specific guidelines for each one.
Crafting all these rules can be a challenge. Once it's done, though, it lays the baseline rules for content creation. Setting the rules means anyone who posts for your firm doesn't need to worry about whether something is out of bounds.
Step 3. Set Rules for Employee Behavior and Usage
A strong law firm social media policy includes guidelines for employee social media usage and behavior.
Employees don't just represent themselves on social media. Others may see them as an ambassador of your law firm's mission, vision, values, and ethics. Make sure to define appropriate online conduct and how to handle concerns.
For example, if an employee is unsure of whether to post something, who should they ask? If an employee violates social media expectations, what are the consequences?
Include tips for managing personal and professional accounts on social media.
Employees have the right to manage their own social media accounts with their own opinions. Your policy must take their rights into account while defining what’s acceptable.
If the employee openly states on their social media profiles that they work for your firm or they regularly post pictures at your office, personal posts may be construed as falling under the firm's policy.
Step 4. Implement the Policy and Train Employees
After you've created your policy, you're ready to roll it out to your team.
If you're developing a new policy, set a time with your staff to go over it. You may also add a step to your new hire onboarding to walk them through the policy.
Employees may not realize the blurred line between their personal and professional posts as part of your law firm team.
An employee, for example, might not realize what does and doesn't cross the line with client confidentiality. A post about a case they're dealing with could reveal personal information about the client or the legal issue.
Your social media policy can clear up misconceptions like that. You can clearly define what information can and cannot be shared about clients, cases, or pending legal issues.
Step 5. Regularly Review and Update the Policy
A social media policy is not something you create once and store on the law firm hard drive.
Instead, it's a living document that evolves over time. Your policy could need adjustment in response to changes in social media platforms, laws, and regulations.
Your policy may also need updates when new social media platforms emerge. If there's a new tool or channel to reach your audience, your policy should accommodate the different qualities of that platform.
For example, when TikTok started gaining traction, it became a viable platform for lawyers. But TikTok is different from things like Facebook or Twitter. To get the most out of it, lawyers needed to update their policies to account for its uniqueness.
Legal and Ethical Considerations for Social Media Policies
There are some common pitfalls that lawyers can fall in without a social media policy.
The first pitfall is making a policy without considering advertising regulations for lawyers. While social media is a great place to talk about your firm, certain bar association rules still apply.
A good policy has guidelines that help you avoid running afoul of ethical guidelines. For example, your policy may include guidance on misleading statements, comments that seem like promises, or claiming specializations.
It may also include guidance on certain disclaimers, such as those clarifying that your posts are not legal advice.
The second pitfall is not balancing free speech rights with professional conduct.
Your staff has the right to maintain their own personal accounts. But people may perceive employees' social media posts as reflecting your law firm's official stance on things.
A good policy defines what professional conduct online looks like. At the same time, it takes into account people's personal freedoms.
Set the Tone for Social Media with a Comprehensive Policy
Creating a comprehensive social media policy takes some work.
But it's an important one for protecting your law firm’s reputation. With your policy, you can maintain client confidentiality and stay within ethical guidelines. You'll also encourage responsible and effective use of social media by employees.
A comprehensive policy also clears the way for effective law firm marketing on social platforms.
Whether you're handling social media in-house or you want to partner with a social media marketing agency for lawyers, having a complete policy is one of a few important components of reaching your potential clients online.