Monday, November 21, 2011

Raising A Few Eyebrows: Law Firms Deal With Gray Area In Employee Social Media Conduct

Posted by Amanda Walsh

There were a few giggles going around the office when this article, The Tweet that Roared: Lawyers and Law Firms Navigate Social Media Landmines, hit our inboxes recently. The story did bring to light an important question regarding law firm social media policies and lawyers' personal social media use outside of the office.

A recent social media firestorm began over a tweet from law firm Kramer Levein Naftalis & Frankel litigation associate Jill Filipovic. Returning from a recent trip, Filipovic tweeted a photo of a note left by the TSA in her luggage. The security tag had “GET YOUR FREAK ON GIRL” written on one side and Filipovic explained, “Guess they discovered a ‘personal item’ in my bag. Wow.”

Needless to say, the tweet about a vibrator, spread through social networks like wildfire. The TSA responded and reprimanded the agent. In the meantime, Filipovic was doing her best to forget about the incident while worrying about losing her job. Fortunately for her though, her employer Kramer Levein Naftalis & Frankel had a policy in place and stood by Filipovic, responding that to their knowledge, “policies have not been violated.”

However, the article author Sara Randazzo, notes that this incident raises a good question, “Should a lawyer at a large law firm ever tweet about vibrators, or anything else of such a personal nature, even when doing so doesn’t grab widespread attention?” Law firms are contending with issues like these more and more since many attorneys are active on sites like Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn.

Furia Rubel strongly encourages law firms to put a social media policy in place in order to proactively face any issues that could arise from employee engagement on social media. Typically, social media policies prohibit online discussion of firm business or clients, however personal sharing crosses into a gray area. More and more, law firms are grappling with lawyers’ social media conduct outside the office that may not directly violate the policy, but could raise a few eyebrows.

Some lawyers have been reprimanded for racy comments online, while others have been able to strike a good balance between personal and business use of social networks. According to New York lawyer, and Sullivan & Cromwell corporate partner, Frank Aquila, “The key from my perspective is that lawyers should not be tweeting or saying anything in social media or blogs that they wouldn't otherwise be saying or writing in any other environment."

We couldn't agree with him more. This is also a rule of thumb that we at Furia Rubel try to emphasize when advising clients: what goes online stays online for an infinite amount of time; so if you have to second guess posting a tweet or comment, then you know it probably isn't a good idea!

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