The fine folks over at the Avvo Blog are running a guest post I wrote recently about the thin line separating acceptable use of social media and the tendency among some lawyers to go overboard, and appear overbearing online. Though an impressive portion of the legal community has joined the online space through blogs and social media, many remain reluctant, fearing that the new forum could damage the legal profession, the way it has journalism, music, and film. Fortunately, lawyers can avoid this fate by following a few key guidelines, which I discussed on the Avvo Blog. Here’s an excerpt:
That the public is critical of lawyers is nothing new. In movies, television and daily conversation, people relish jokes about the supposedly greedy, deceptive nature of the legal profession. By using social media to share interesting information or connect with others interested in common subjects, lawyers can begin to distance themselves from this misconception. But, if social media is misused, as the one-sided echo chamber designed to drive profits that Searls criticizes, lawyers will end up affirming every stereotype in the book.
The key to ethical online interaction is pretty clear. First, check your state’s guidelines to ensure that it doesn’t view social media use as unlawful. Second, go out of your way to separate your firm’s online advertising from its social media presence. And finally, if you blog, tweet, or use Facebook, do so to share information, not preach about your firm’s greatness.
There’s no doubt that lawyers, and other professionals, will continue to merge the profession with new online capabilities. As long as they adhere to social media best practices and abide by state laws regulating unlawful advertising, there’s no need for lawyers to sweat the online stuff.