Texts, Tweets, and Facebook: Drafting Your Firm's Social Media Policy by John F. Koryto and Gregory P. Ripple
he use of social media has exploded in our society, and even if you don't use it, it's almost certain
your employees and clients do. Defined broadly, social media is Internet-based media that allows anyone to create content or comment on content posted by others. Social media includes:
• Social networking sites (Facebook, MySpace) • Video- and photo-sharing sites (Flickr, YouTube) • Micro-blogging sites (Twitter) • Weblogs, including corporate and personal blogs, or those hosted by traditional media publications
• Any other website that allows individuals to publish their own content or comment on content posted by others
Yes, they're doing it, and you need to review your firm's policies and practices to make sure they cover all these activities and types of media. Social media, despite its positive impact on personal communications, presents significant risk to lawyers and law firms due to the immediate and potentially widespread release of information. Law firms need to protect themselves against the possible negative consequences of an employee's online activities and need to protect client confidential information.
There is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all social
• Likewise, attorneys and employees must know when and if they are permitted to use the firm's logos, trademarks, or any other intellectual prop- erty in any social media content. Any attorneys or employees who, as part of their job duties, are authorized to create social media content on be- half of the firm should be indentified and receive written instruction on restrictions or policies that apply to their individual circumstances.
media policy. A firm's social media policy needs to reflect the particular concerns and staffing of each office, and how it has chosen to embrace social media. However, there should some common themes in any social media policy, including:
• Attorneys or employees who create social media should be required to post a disclaimer stating that they speak only for themselves, not for the firm. Clear instruction should be given not to create any content that relates to the firm or law related issues, unless specifically authorized to speak for the firm.
• The policy must emphasize that confidential or client information may not be revealed through social media. Except for news alerts or marketing efforts, client communications should not be conducted through socials media sites.
"An effective social media policy successfully balances the employee's rights to self expression with the firm's legitimate business and client protection interests."
• Social media content should not violate any other applicable firm policy, including disclosing client information. Of course, harassing, threatening, defaming, demeaning social media content directed at anyone should be prohibited.
• Finally, employees should be reminded that social media content will be accessible to the general public and government agencies. The USCIS has stated it views social media sites as an investigation tool [AILA InfoNet Doc. No. 10101473]. Once posted on the Internet, information is difficult, if not impossible, to control.
An effective social media policy successfully balances the employee's rights to self expression with the firm's legitimate business and client protection interests. Developing a social media policy also provides a reminder that all firms should have relevant employment policies in place and updated regularly.
John F. Koryto is vice chair of Miller Johnson's Employ- ment Section. Gregory P. Ripple is a member of Miller Johnson's Employment Section. They have presented frequent seminars to employers on social media issues.