When Social Media Attacks, Lawyers Suffer

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Lawyers are increasingly turning to social media to share legal insights, boost their profiles, and spread the word about their successes in the courtroom. But such benefits mask a potential dark side to attorneys’ social activities, and Legal Marketing Advantage has compiled tips designed to help lawyers avoid a social media disaster.

Not only can an ill-advised post earn the scorn of clients and the media, in some cases it could actually force the firm to butt heads with the FTC

We live in a social world. Nearly every law firm across the country has some sort of social presence, whether that be a Twitter page, a Facebook fan page, or a Pinterest board where each partner shares his or her favorite homemade arts and crafts.

While most of these social media accounts are fairly innocuous, one wrong message from a law firm is all it takes to create a veritable public relations disaster. Social media is a fantastic way to improve relationships with new and former clients, but lawyers can get in hot water when they let the casual nature of the medium get in the way of their professional image.

An October 21, 2013 article from the Chicago Tribune entitled “Jury out on lawyers using social media to hype cases” shows that attorneys are increasingly walking a fine line between promoting their businesses in colorful ways and breaching the code of ethics.

Corey Burke, president of Legal Marketing Advantage, understands the appeal of a flashy social media account, though he warns that care must be taken not to turn off potential clients:

“From a legal marketing point of view, social media has been a godsend,” said Mr. Burke. “It allows lawyers to interact with clients in a way that would have been impossible even a few short years ago. However, attorneys sell their own firms short when they give in to what I would refer to as the OMG LOL culture of most social venues. Not only can an ill-advised post earn the scorn of clients and the media, in some cases it could actually force the firm to butt heads with the FTC.”

Law firms should strive to avoid these all too common mistakes that pop up on social fronts:

•Boast of Burden- The case is won, the client has avoided criminal charges, and all is right with the world. The lead attorney remains dignified until he or she goes on social media to proclaim, “The truth comes out! Our law firm does it again! Ain’t no charges ever gonna stick to this teflon legal team #represent.” Such taunting does a disservice to your professional reputation and reduces your credibility in future cases.

•Don’t Get Personal- Letting a bit of personality shine through is one thing, but giving the world at peek at the minutiae of your everyday existence is quite another. When every Instagram photo is you playing Call of Duty, reading a comic book, or taking a vacation to the French Riviera, clients will begin to wonder whether you’re going to be able to fit their legal needs into your schedule.

•LA(wyer) Confidential- The attorney-client privilege is a fundamental protection offered to those involved in court proceedings, but this privilege gets threatened when revelations about a case are echoed on social media. Even basic information about an upcoming case may break attorney-client privilege if the details came from a conversation a client thought was private. Speaking about cases before they reach their conclusion is a dangerous game.

•The FTC Won’t Let You Be- Any type of social post that could feasibly be construed as an ad needs to meet the guidelines imposed upon marketers by the FTC. The brevity of social posts is no excuse not to offer full disclosure to potential readers. Avoid overtly promotional Tweets like, “We can help you gain compensation for your injury,” or “We’re the best lawyers in the state.” Offers of legal representation or claims about ability are ill-advised given the ease at which they can get you on the FTC’s radar. And with Regional Bar Associations looking into changing the rules and regulations surrounding social media too, lawyer have to be extremely careful that they’re not breaking any rules of conduct. (For more about Advertising Disclosure Guidelines, visit the FTC website).

•Family Matters- It’s not just lawyers who have to watch their social posts. They must be cognizant of how family members are referencing their legal work. If a family member makes an accusation about the other side because they’re mad that their husband, wife, father, or mother was insulted in court, it can ruin the credibility of the lawyer and the case.

•Save The Arguments For The Courtroom- If a disgruntled client or even someone you’re facing in court insults you on social fronts, ignore it rather than get into a war of words. Remain above the vitriol.

“Many attorneys feel like they need social media because their competitors are doing it,” said Mr. Burke. “This is known as FOMO, or Fear of Missing Out. The truth is that they might be missing out, but they might also ruin their reputation. It takes time and a coherent strategy to do things right. You need a clear plan in place and you need to stick to that plan.”

Legal Marketing Advantage, one of the fastest growing internet marketing tech companies in North America, offers a diverse array of search marketing solutions to satisfy the needs and budgets of law firms across the country. Utilizing state of the art technology and innovative strategy, the company helps attorneys and law firms grow their business and reach their full potential. LMA develops customized internet marketing solutions that empower legal professionals with a simple and affordable way to attract qualified prospects who can then become clients. Visit Legalmarketingadvantage.com for more information.

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