The evolving nature of legal practice requires continuous adaptation by attorneys and those who work to support them in their daily practice. Over the years, attorneys have adapted from using books for researching case law to online databases. Attorneys also must remain conversant with charges in statutes, regulations and case law. Similar to other professions, the practice of law has migrated from the use of physical files and written letters to cloud computing and email communications with clients. Clearly, the emergence of social media represents the most recent frontier in the ever-changing information age. The influence of social media on legal practice, client relationships, and the boundaries between professional and personal activities must be scrupulously navigated.
This guide will provide an overview of ethics concerns, practice challenges, potential benefits and pitfall of social media use related to the practice of law.
Attorney and Law Firm Social Media Presence
For more than twenty years, the American Bar Association (“ABA”) Legal Technology Resource Center has been publishing the Legal Technology Survey Report. 1
The most recent ABA TECHREPORT 2016 revealed a significant increase in law firm social network presence, from 17% in 2010 to 74% in 2016.2 The 2016 report also notes that law firms and individual attorneys are participating in social media to serve professional purposes.
The 2016 ABA TECHREPORT found the following law firm social media presence:
- LinkedIn: 78%
- Facebook: 57% 3
- Blogs: 26%
- None: 26%
- Don’t Know: 10%
The report further demonstrated that LinkedIn, as a professional and career-centered social media forum, appears to be more suited to the legal environment than other social media sites. In contrast to Facebook, LinkedIn focuses on professional status and advancement. A law firm posting about a successful case, therefore, seems more appropriate in a forum focused on careers, rather than one integrated with personal posts about politics, personal milestones, and other informal references.
Attorneys participating in the ABA TECHREPORT indicated the following as to the reasons for participating in social media:
- Career Development/Networking: 73%
- Client Development: 51%
- Education/Current Awareness: 35%
- Case Investigation: 21%