I was pleasantly surprised upon receiving the agenda for my continuing education last week because there were two sessions devoted specifically to social networking. The first, about which I wrote in a previous post, dealt with social-networking sites as information-gathering tools. In the second, James Herr, an associate in the Louisville, Ky., office of Greenebaum, Doll & McDonald, discussed the ethical use of social networking in a law practice. He addressed information-gathering as well as effective marketing, within the rules of professional conduct for attorneys.
I won't bore you with specifics regarding just how those rules apply to social networking. But one thing I heard Herr say repeatedly is "Use caution." For instance, think before you post the picture of yourself more than slightly intoxicated because it could reflect poorly on your character and fitness to practice law. Or, be careful to whom you send a friend request. You might create a conflict of interest that violates the rules. Remember that you're an attorney, and your Web site or your Facebook page may be the means by which potential clients form their first impressions of you.
These are only a few of the several scenarios Herr discussed, and even though they focus on attorneys, they suggest principles of which we all need to be reminded when it comes to social networking:
- Don't post pictures, notes or other information that will cast you in a bad light or reflect poorly on your ability to do the work.
- Be careful whom you decide to "friend."
- Communicate clearly.
And the one thing Herr said that should apply to everyone, regardless of profession: Use the privacy controls offered by the different social platforms. Block people or applications when necessary. Choose who should see what and when. After all, it's hard to complain that our privacy should be better protected if we don't use tools that are right in front of us.