How Should Legal Professionals Handle Social Media?


Much of what is and isn't appropriate on social media sites is up for debate. However, legal professionals should maintain high standards in deciding what they post and with whom they interact on their personal social media pages.

Here are five tips to help you safely employ social media as an attorney.

Social Media Best Practices for Legal Professionals

  1. Manage your personal accounts. Most firms and companies have established social media policies as part of their law practice management. Make sure you read your organization's policy and adhere to it. Then, on all of your personal social media pages, ensure that you're maintaining the strictest possible privacy settings. Also, avoid "friend"-ing your boss, judges, opposing counsel, or clients. And of course, use common sense and keep anything unprofessional offline; if you wouldn't post it on your office door, you shouldn't put it on your Facebook page.

  2. Never offer legal advice online. If you provide commentary or information that could be construed as legal advice on a social media site, you could inadvertently form a binding attorney-client relationship. Your counsel could also cross state boundaries; and if people outside of the states where you're licensed receive your advice, it could be interpreted as the unauthorized practice of law.

  3. Limit communication with opposing parties. Follow the same ethical guidelines regarding communication with opposing parties on social media sites as you would in person. For example, you should not speak with represented parties without permission or their lawyer present or speak with unrepresented parties without advising them to seek legal counsel. When it comes to opposing counsel, you're bound to encounter Facebook friends and Twitter followers in the courtroom from time to time. As long as you don't discuss your clients or the case on social media, you don't need to un-friend or un-follow them.

  4. Don't discuss clients. Social media is often used as a tool to vent about stressful situations that may reference family, friends and work. However, you must never discuss clients or client matters online — even if you think you're being discrete. At the least, it's unprofessional; at the most, it's a breach of confidentiality.

  5. Don't post false or misleading comments. Whether comments are about clients, other attorneys or opposing parties, don't ever make a false or misleading statement online. Even one short simple tweet or Facebook status update can be libelous and actionable under the law.

As an attorney, you aren't the average social media user. What you say and post can have severe ramifications for your legal career. Even on your personal accounts, you need to keep your professional reputation and office policy in mind.

For more information on current trends in the legal profession, download a complimentary copy of Robert Half Legal's Future Law Office.