Joan Jett’s line from her famous song is apropos this week: “I don’t give a damn ‘bout my bad reputation.” Now, this attitude towards your reputation may have been all well and good pre the 24/7 media and social media cycle. Yet, in today’s world, what you do and post on the Internet is part of a permanent digital dossier. I caution any lawyer using social media to take pause and think before you post…
Oh, The Ethics
I wrote a piece with IP and Entertainment Law attorney, Lisa Borodkin, on the ethics of using social media several years ago for California Lawyer. While it may be enticing to share every moment of your life, you need to be careful you are not communicating details or even sentiments about a matter or case at trial you may be working on. When you are entrusted to maintain attorney-client privilege and zealously defend your clients, your biting commentary on Twitter or Facebook likely does not go far to meet these obligations.
Remember Your Community
Online reputation management also extends outwards to your community. If you do embarrassing things and post them on the Internet, it reflects on organizations that you are affiliated with, such as your employer. If you are a small firm, it is now part of your permanent online file that potential clients and opposing counsel will find and come to make decisions about you based upon it. Please check out the Internet Archive if you do not think things remain on the Internet permanently.
It is also important not to forget where you came from in terms of education. Particularly in areas where people stay close to their alma mater due to employment opportunities, such as San Francisco, it is important to realize what you post can also reflect on other alumni.
Since small firm practice, and any type of practice really, is dependent on referrals, your ill-thought posts on social media could really hurt you and your firm. What you think is funny or cool for your personal life can have a major impact professionally. Even if you did not love your law school, you ought to think how that reflects on your former classmates from a collegiality standpoint.
Stop and Take a Moment
In short, take pause and deliberate, even if momentarily, before you tweet. Think twice about pushing that video you made on your iPhone to Facebook. Remembering “professional” in this profession is important.
Christina Gagnier leads the Intellectual Property, Internet & Technology practice at Gagnier Margossian LLP, with a specialization in social media, copyright and information privacy. She is also at the helm of REALPOLITECH, a digital public relations consultancy that provides a broad range of services, including crisis communications. She serves on the Board of Directors of Without My Consent, combating issues like revenge porn. If you ever need to find her, start with Twitter at @gagnier or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.