Social media and the law

Marty Dolan, principal at Dolan Law and his associate Karen Munoz represent victims of wrongful death and personal injury. His column “Law and Wellness,” appears in the Chicago Lawyer and her column appears regularly in the Law Bulletin. This week’s column is written by Karen Munoz.

Our firm recently launched a Facebook page and it got me thinking about the effects social media are having on so many aspects of the practice of law.

1. Marketing

According to a recent survey, 90 percent of people trust peer reviews of products and services, while only 14 percent trust advertisements. While lawyers have long been aware of the value of networking and word-of-mouth reviews as ‘rainmakers’ , compared with advertising, social media are presenting new ways of reaching potential clients. 78 percent of the Am Law 100 law firms have Twitter accounts which are used to post firm news, law/practice updates and articles of interest to clients. LinkedIn (which gets a new member every second) offers another increasingly popular way of bolstering a firm’s online presence. Keeping abreast of and responding to what people are saying about you online can make a real difference to maintaining a good reputation. Just make sure you do a good job for your clients so you don’t spend all your time trying to limit the damage done by hits to your rep!

2. Evidence

As we all know, some people will post anything on Facebook or Twitter and we’re seeing more and more social networking posts being used as evidence in the courtroom. Posts with completely innocent motives can later become ‘smoking guns’ at trial; jurors can compromise entire proceedings by ill-conceived posts about a case; and social media content can even form the sole reason for litigation in some cases. So lawyers should beware of the far-reaching consequences of posts on social networking sites.

I don’t know of any cases where a post by an attorney has affected a trial or given rise to legal liability in itself but I know I’m not going to be the first one! Which leads me onto another simple but important thing to bear in mind…

3. Remember the Basics

Lawyers should be very careful not to post anything on social networking sites which can have a negative impact on their responsibilities and duties as an officer of the court. By this, I mean obvious things; everything from confidential information to rants about your boss, right down to compromising photos. It’s not rocket science but it is important!

Especially when applying for a new job – employers check up on you these days. In fact, there are now companies whose sole operations consist of trawling through the net and digging up anything and everything they can find about prospective employees. But regardless of what stage of your career you’re at, anything you post could be misinterpreted or taken out of context. So be careful!

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