Social media is prominent in society at this point. From Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Snapchat, Instagram, and a litany of other social media platforms, your employees are likely on social media. When employees go on social media, posts are often spontaneous. Employees generally get on social media when they are feeling a range of emotions from happiness, sadness, anger, anxiety, etc. This is why it is important for a firm to lay out some guidelines or have a social media policy in place.
In this day and age, employees being on social media is guaranteed. Certainly, most employers have to recognize their employees are on social media. And, certainly, most social media activity is likely to have little correlation to what is taking place at your law firm. When social media activity has nothing to do with the workplace, a law firm is not concerned.
However, social media activity can sometimes impact your law firm. Sometimes, employees may make posts that might impact how your law firm is viewed. Employees can sometimes say and do things that might inadvertently have a reflection on the law firm itself.
In the law firm world, there can also be serious concerns if law firm employees make comments that could even remotely result in confidentiality or attorney-client being breached. For this reason alone, a social media policy at a law firm is just a must in this day and age.
The reality is law firms need to seriously consider having a social media policy in place that ensures that confidentiality and attorney-client privilege is protected at all times, including on social media. Employees need to understand that any breach could negatively impact clients and their ability to keep their job.
Most major corporations have also implemented social media policies that law firms should also consider as well. Some examples of specific terms to consider in a social media policy include:
- An understanding that employees can list who their employees are, but that their posts represent their own personal views and not that of their employer.
- An understanding that sensitive company information should not be posted online on social media.
- An understanding that comments that might be viewed as discriminatory are prohibited.
- An understanding that social media activity should not impact work performance in a negative way.
- An understanding that an employee should think before posting. Further, if there are any questions about whether their post might be violative of the firm’s social media policy, they should seek clarification first.
- An understanding that an employee should respect intellectual property and copyrights of the law firm.
- An understanding that an employee should be respectful of others online.
- An understanding that what employees in leadership positions do view their social media outside of work can impact the brand and goodwill of the law firm.
- Critically, an understanding that case details should not be posted or in any way alluded to on social media. Otherwise, client confidentiality and attorney-client privilege could be jeopardized.
These are just some examples above. Of course, there are other areas in which a social media policy might address as well. If you have any questions about how to draft a social media policy, consulting an employment attorney is certainly advisable.
It would be nice if law firms did not need to think about items like a social media policy in their employment manual. But social media is mainstream. Most employees are using it. And many employees may not use good judgment. Thus, the reality is that most law firms should really think long and hard about coming about with a social media policy.
Otherwise, the reality is that an employee might step over the line online. Without a policy in place, employees are not likely going to know where the line is located. You also cannot take appropriate action, in some circumstances, without a policy in place.
If you have any thoughts, feel free to share them below.