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Issue 27 | May 2014

LIANSWERS

This newsletter includes information to help lawyers reduce the likelihood of being sued for malpractice. The material presented is not intended to establish, report, or create the standard of care for lawyers. The articles do not represent a complete analysis of the topics presented, and readers should conduct their own appropriate legal research.
DOUBLE-EDGED SWORD

The brave new world of social media opens up a wealth of opportunities for lawyers with modest marketing budgets. Never before have we had to chance to raise our profiles and build our businesses’ brands with only a couple (well-aimed) clicks of the mouse.

Nevertheless, mainstream social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter come with a plethora of potential pitfalls – problems that can be for the most part easily avoided by following a short list of simple social media precautions. When using platforms such as Facebook or Twitter for commercial or professional purposes, it is important to consider the nature of the content you post in order to protect yourself from breaches of confidentiality or conflicts of interest.

First things first
At the very least, to build your online brand and develop your business, you should be using the major social media sites to provide  information about your firm and its services.

You may also consider including information that helps your firm stand out from its competitors.

Once you’ve ensured your social media presence accurately reflects how you want to appear in the market, you way wish to consider the following tips:

Accuracy
Keep your information up to date – particularly contact details, staff listings, legislation-related information and also your site’s News & Events page. How often are edits made to your pages?

Show your sources
Support your content with statistics. Use reputable sources for any facts, claims and estimates cited in anything you post online – and be sure to include references, citations or acknowledgements for any third-party data.

‘Show’, don’t ‘tell’
Use real-life examples throughout your posts and other content. Tell your followers and contacts a story to bring your point to life. So highlight your firm’s best and most important work in your posts, along with award wins and anything else you feel may give your firm a human face and forge a connection with users.

Keep it simple
People don’t tend to read onscreen information in great depth. Instead, most users simply scan for the next subheading or hyperlink. With attention spans stretched to breaking, don’t overwhelm with too much content or content that’s too complex. Be sure to promote your firm’s successes but overall, keep the tone of your posts welcoming, easy to navigate and professional, and let the clients come to you.

What’s in a name?
Lawyers should take reasonable steps to determine the identity of people they are interacting with and be very careful about what information they share to avoid conflicts of interest when using social networking tools, as people frequently use an email or online name that is shortened or different from their usual name when communicating online.

Legal information vs. legal advice
Providing legal information is a great way to market your services. However, you must never provide legal advice online. In fact, guard against saying anything online that could be construed as legal advice. Be sure to feature a disclaimer alongside any information you post online.

Be polite and professional
Once information is published on the internet, it is difficult to delete in its entirety. As such, with a few clicks, existing, potential and former clients can easily find most of everything you’ve posted online.

We therefore recommend that you remain civil and professional whenever you are online. With a few clicks, existing, potential (and former!) clients can easily find most of everything you’ve posted online as it is extremely difficult to delete information once is indexed on the Internet. Be civil and professional in all your online activities – don’t say anything you wouldn’t want to appear on the front page of the newspaper tomorrow morning.