Revised June 2024
Jaffe

 

Introduction

At Jaffe, we have made our best effort to outline a comprehensive set of online policies and procedures for law firms and lawyers striving to use social media effectively and responsibly. Please feel free to use and adapt this document to fit your law firm’s needs, and to pass it along to others who may find it useful.

We recommend that you take into consideration your law firm’s standards and culture when customizing these Social Media Policies and Procedures to include your firm’s principles on confidentiality, public reputation management, and marketing and communications. Keep in mind that the existence of a policy is not the same as enforcement, so it is necessary to develop procedures to train your employees and enforce adherence to your firm’s policy.

Other Considerations

There are several other important tactics for law firms engaging in social media to consider.

  • Learn state ethics rules: Certain states are more stringent about their ethics rules than others and consider social media posts to be subject to the same guidelines as advertising. It is important to follow the state bar rules of professional conduct for attorney advertising for all the states where your firm operates.
  • Educate: Whether administrative staff or senior partners, all members of the firm should undergo a series of social media trainings that deliver a comprehensive review of your law firm’s social media policy and a discussion about how anyone’s digital footprint can affect the firm’s reputation.
  • Monitor: In today’s online environment, knowing when your firm and attorneys garner social media mentions is crucial. By monitoring social networks, you can respond quickly and appropriately to discussions involving your firm.
  • Respond strategically: A lapse of online etiquette by a partner or staff member can happen easily. Having a strategy to mitigate the damage caused by an errant post makes good PR sense. Today’s law firm crisis communication plan should include a social media section with a strategy for overcoming such situations.
  • Enforce consequences: A social media policy without any teeth is an inadequate policy. Firms must determine how to handle violations that fall outside of what is considered protected activities under the National Labor Relations Act. Explain the potential consequences in the social media policy, and deliver frequent reminders so enforcement is expected and understood by all.

Intellectual Property Notice

The content of this material may be protected under various intellectual property laws, including copyright and trademark. Unless otherwise stated, this material is and remains the intellectual property of Jaffe and all rights are reserved. No part of this material may be incorporated, reproduced, republished, distributed, transmitted, displayed, broadcast or otherwise exploited in any manner, except for the internal use and analysis by the requesting firm, without the express prior written permission of Jaffe. Jaffe’s names, logos, related trademarks and other intellectual property are the property of Jaffe and cannot be used without its express prior written permission.

© 2008–2024 Jaffe. All rights reserved.

 


 

The Law Firm Social Media Policy Template

[FIRM NAME] Social Media Policy and Procedures

Social media encompasses a broad range of online platforms and activities, all of which contribute to our law firm’s digital footprint. These social networks include platforms such as LinkedIn, Facebook, X (formerly Twitter),TikTok, Pinterest, Instagram and YouTube. When managed correctly, these platforms offer opportunities to expand our digital footprint and reach our online audience effectively.

As a firm, we believe that social media can drive business development and support our networking efforts — and recent research from Pew Research Center shows that social media use continues to climb. A 2024 HubSpot marketing survey found that social media is the second-most effective channel for driving the biggest ROI. (The websites/blogs/SEO category channel was the number one driver of ROI).

We are aware that social media will not be used exclusively for business; keeping that in mind, we attempt to provide reasonable guidelines for online behavior for members of our firm who participate online on behalf of our firm. As new tools on the web are introduced and new challenges emerge for all of us, this document will, of necessity, evolve.

Here are [FIRM NAME]’s social media policies and procedures.

Social Media Policies and Procedures

YOUR IDENTITY ONLINE

  • You are responsible for what you post and subject to the terms of service for each platform. You are personally responsible for any of your online activity conducted with a firm email address or that can be traced back to the firm’s domain or that uses firm assets. The [FIRM DOMAIN].com address attached to your name implies that you are acting on the firm’s behalf. When using a firm email address or firm assets to engage in any social media or professional social networking activity (for example, LinkedIn), most actions are public, and attorneys and staff will be held fully responsible for any and all of their said activities.
  • Outside the workplace, your rights to privacy and free speech protect online activity conducted on your personal social networks with your personal email address. However, what you publish on such personal online sites should never be attributed to the firm and should not appear to be endorsed by or originated from the firm. If you choose to list your work affiliation on a social network, then you should regard all communication on that network as you would in a professional network. Online lives are ultimately linked, whether or not you choose to mention the firm in your personal online networking activities.
  • Follow the rules in the [FIRM NAME]’s [EMPLOYEE STAFF MANUAL]. These rules also apply to employee behavior in social media networks and other public online spaces.
  • Obey the law: Do not post any information or conduct any online activities that might violate applicable local, state, or federal laws or regulations, or any ethical guidelines for professional conduct.
  • Never be false or misleading in your online credentials. Attorneys and other professional staff members must maintain complete accuracy in all of their online biographies (bios) and ensure there is no embellishment. For example, for a lawyer’s bio to state “Harvard-trained” after the attorney attends a weekend CLE course at Harvard is inaccurate and noncompliant with the rules.
  • Avoid using the words “expert/expertise” or “specialized/specialist” to refer to attorneys or the firm except when such claims can be substantiated and are approved for usage by the appropriate state bar association.

CREATING AND MANAGING CONTENT

  • Social media posts can be subject to attorney advertising rules, so follow your state bar’s ethics rules [include a link to your state bar’s web page here] regarding social media networking and attorney advertising.
  • Never use a firm client’s name in a social media post unless you have written permission to do so beforehand.
  • Credit content appropriately: Identify all copyrighted or borrowed material that you mention with citations and links. When publishing any material online that includes another’s direct or paraphrased quotes, thoughts, ideas, photos or videos, always give credit to the original material or author, where applicable.
  • Fact-check your posts. Always ensure that the content you are sharing is accurate, truthful and without factual error.
  • Verify your captions are free of errors by proofreading your posts carefully.
  • Correct any errors promptly. If you find that a social post of yours contains an error or mistake, correct it or delete the post.

LEAVING COMMENTS

  • When posting to a social media site, refrain from writing about controversial or potentially inflammatory subjects, including politics, sex, religion or any other non-business-related subjects. Keep the tone of your comments respectful and informative, never condescending or berating. Use sentence-case format, not capital letters. Stick to this guidance whenever you contribute to any social and professional networks.
  • Avoid personal attacks, online fights and hostile communications. If a connection, reporter or any other online influencer posts a statement that you disagree with, carefully consider whether it is worth commenting. If you choose to engage in the post, voice your opinion, but do not escalate the conversation to a heated argument. Write reasonably and factually, and maintain a professional tone in your comments. Understand and credit the other person’s point of view and avoid any communications that could result in personal, professional or credibility attacks.
  • Never disclose proprietary or confidential information about our firm or our clients in your posts or responses/comments.
  • If in doubt, don’t!

CONFIDENTIALITY AND PRIVACY

  • Do not disclose confidential information about the firm, our cases or our clients. Honor the terms of your contracts with the firm and contracts we have with any client. Do not disclose or use confidential or proprietary information of the firm or any client in any form of online media. Sharing this type of information, even unintentionally, can result in legal action against you, the firm or the client.
  • Respect the privacy of your partners and associates, as well as the opinions of others. Before sharing a comment, post, picture or video about a client or other attorney through any type of social media, obtaining the client’s or attorney’s consent is not only a courtesy — it also is a requirement.

POTENTIAL CONFLICTS AND RED FLAGS

Get prior approval for a post when:

  • Responding to a negative post. If someone posts an inaccurate, accusatory or negative comment about the firm or any firm clients, do not engage in the conversation without prior approval of [CONTACT NAME]. If the post is negative about the firm, inform the [the firm’s communications/public relations/marketing contact] and [firm management contact].
  • Posting recommendations for colleagues. Recommending colleagues is a tool of professional social networking sites like LinkedIn. The recommendations you post about other current and former firm attorneys can have consequences, even if you are making the recommendations personally and not on behalf of the firm. Therefore, we ask that you clear all potential recommendations with [CONTACT NAME] for anyone who is or ever was associated with the firm. (NOTE TO FIRM: You could give a time limit, such as “anyone associated with the firm in the past # years.”)
  • Responding directly to a journalist. If you are contacted directly by a journalist regarding issues of concern to the firm, clear the query with [CONTACT NAME] before responding.

Other potential red flag situations:

  • Check your state’s particular prohibitions or limitations on testimonials or endorsements before posting any of these online.
  • Use a disclaimer if you communicate electronically about awards, recent cases or case outcomes. (NOTE TO FIRM: You may want to require prior approval for this.) Be aware that attorney-client relationships might be created online, sometimes inadvertently. Use of a firm-approved disclaimer might be appropriate.

BUILDING YOUR VIRTUAL FOOTPRINT AND YOUR NETWORK

  • Build a reputation of trust among your clients, media and the public. When you are reaching out to journalists, bloggers, clients or colleagues through social media, take every opportunity to build a reputation of trust and establish yourself as a credible and transparent legal professional.
  • Don’t use your personal online relationships or the firm’s network to influence polls or rankings.

Download a copy of the Jaffe Social Media Policy Template as a Word file.