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Social Media Policy Development

by Joseph Raczynski

Panelist:

Julia Montgomery, Technology Projects Manager, Arent Fox LLP

Karen M. Sheehan, Head of PLC Law Department at Practical Law Company, Inc.

Mary Abraham, Counsel, Debevoise & Plimpton LLP (Moderator)

 

As social media has ballooned in popularity and use, law firms have had to wrestle with the myriad of implications on the organization.  Staff and attorneys who increasingly use of Facebook, Twitter and Youtube can cause serious issues for the firm.  This session at ILTA (International Legal Technology Association) focused around the various aspects of a firm developing a social media policy.

 

Here are some important points to consider when crafting you social media policy:

  • A firm should gather a wide internal audience for a complete perspective. These individuals should include: a partner, junior associate, the marketing department, and the “grandmotherly secretary”
  • It should involve a cross-disciplinary drafting team: IT, HR, marketing, ethics department, and someone who has used social media in the past
  • A policy should keep the policies broad so as not to get into specific types of social media like Youtube or FourSquare
  • The policy should not be crafted unless you actually play in the field. That is, that policy owner needs to know how each works, e.g. Twitter, Youtube, LinkedIn

Some recommendations for a firm to its users:

  • Firms are using social media to look at people for hiring and firings.
  • You may need to educate people about privacy settings and work with IT to adjust sites at the firm
  • You should have a designated individual at the firm whom users could visit to ask if it makes sense to post something
  • The best rule of thumb is to keep in mind if what you are doing or saying is “in public.” In most cases, what you write online is public or can be made public
  • Some firms are blocking all users from social media, some firms merely block staff, and others actually select individuals who have a reputation for abuse

Educational Issues:

  • If a policy is not accompanied by education, it will be hard to enforce
  • Be sure the employees of your firm understand the opportunities and the dangers of social media
  • A firm can dictate what you can or cannot write on Facebook, if you are on company time and using company resources. There should be no real expectation of privacy if you are posting on Facebook and are associated with a firm.  However, the firm must have a business justifiable reason to take action.

Ultimately with the rapid adoption of social media, a carefully crafted social media policy is highly recommended.  It must be broad in its scope to include all possibilities and use cases as it is easier than ever to break the client confidentiality rules via social media.  Lastly, users must be aware to be honest about who they are, making it clear their views or their own and understand that even those statements potentially have an effect on the firm.

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