The Law Society for England and Wales’ new Best Practice Guidelines for the use of social media within law firms raises fascinating questions about client relationships.
Much a like to our own easy to use guide the Law Society covers the benefits of social media, for example improving the profile of the firm, engaging with clients and improving customer satisfaction and the fact that use of social media might be a legitimate expectation of some clients in future.
More interestingly however the report highlights the legal risks to individuals and law firms through the use of social media.
The SRA Code states that firms must keep the affairs of the client confidential, unless required by law or consent. The Law Society’s report states that social media itself presents a challenge to this particular action as information shared between the firm and client may be disclosed, intentionally, inadvertently or through association, to the public resulting in a breech of client confidentiality.
We are also reminded that unless privacy settings are adhered to and majority of information is inaccessible to the public any information, comments or opinions posted on social media sites may be produced as evidence during litigation, most commonly for defamation.
As our most recent research, the Social Media Legal Survey 2011 confirmed, many law firms tend to opt for the use of LinkedIn rather than Twitter and Facebook.
Industry trade publication Legal Futures‘ recent article on social media guidance explained that this may have been because it is now seen as a “mainstream application for lawyers.” But despite promoting the use of LinkedIn it also highlighted the Law Society Guidelines which call attention to the dangers of social media within the legal profession by identifying that connecting with a client on LinkedIn could breach confidentiality simply by acknowledging the link.
We believe that used cautiously with correct advice and training, social media can be a useful platform for any business and once used to their full potential can influence and maintain reputations.
A business journalist by trade, Ralph Savage represents a series of B2B clients on media and marketing matters. He provides strategic PR advice, media training and consultancy. He also ghost writes regularly on behalf of FTSE 250 CEOs, leading counsel and senior professionals including solicitors, accountants and brokers.