Social Media: An Effective Tool — and a Source of Tension

April 17, 2023

Stories of junior attorneys embarrassing themselves and their firms on social media have become a genre unto themselves in the past several years, and these gaffes serve as handy cautionary tales for firms training early-career attorneys to be cautious online.

While most of the attorneys using tools like TikTok to build their individual brands work for consumer-facing firms practicing in areas such as personal injury or family law, some Big Law attorneys have found ways to network through social apps too, making connections and offering generic advice that might someday lead to business. Younger, “digital native” attorneys tend to be more comfortable communicating professionally and personally via social media, which means the role of these tools will continue to grow, and firms may find a way to work with, not against, the impulse to use them in business development.

Firm social media accounts serve other purposes (usually focused mostly on recruiting), but when it comes to individual lawyers’ accounts for BD, a specific, pro-active policy is an important tool in managing the reputation risks they pose.

Find the right balance for your firm

Whether you’re reining in a tech-savvy lawyer or trying to convert a social-media skeptic, these tips can help you create a workable approach:

  1. Implement a firmwide social-media policy. If you don’t have a policy in place, prioritizecreating one. A clear policy should cover everything from ensuring that your firm doesn’t violate your state’s attorney advertising rules to clarifying origination credit and digital asset ownership. Some firms implement strict policies to prevent lawyers from posting content that could dilute or tarnish the firm’s brand. Others opt for a looser approach, encouraging lawyers to use social media to engage with current and potential clients. You can help guide firm leaders in developing a social-media strategy that’s aligned with the firm’s values.
  2. Prepare lawyers to make good decisions. To state the obvious, ensuring that your firm’s lawyers are aware of and following the social-media policy is key. Review the policy as part of your firm’s onboarding with new hires. And incorporate it into annual employee trainings. Your training should outline how the firm’s policy applies across platforms — Facebook, TikTok, Twitter and LinkedIn. It’s also helpful to share case studies of social media gone wrong, and showcase lawyers getting social media right.
  3. Regularly update your firm’s social-media policy. With the continual evolution of social media as well as emerging technologies and the AI explosion, change is constant. As social media evolves, make sure your firm is keeping pace by reviewing your policies at least annually and updating as needed.

Social media can be an effective BD tool, whether you’re attracting new clients, strengthening relationships with existing clients or recruiting new hires. The key is developing and enforcing a policy that protects the firm’s brand without stifling the development of leads.