Rezooming your legal career can be daunting all by itself. Adding the need to include social media in that effort may even make you physically ill. You can choose to avoid social media opportunities altogether or, with the help of some pretty tech savvy lawyers navigate your rezoom with social media. Questions about engaging in social media always start with whether its use will enhance or derail your journey. Not running afoul of your legal ethics can be the worry when talking about engaging on social media. The following three helpful hints may make it less scary and get you rezooming in cyberspace.
First, think of social media as your best first-step back into the practice of law. You can set up a website, create a LinkedIn profile and choose a Twitter name. Putting all this information out on the Internet will help you re-engage in your preferred area of law. It tells people who you are, what you do and your qualifications to do it. It also helps people know how you might be able to help them.
Second, understand that social media allows you to follow and connect with people who are already doing what it is you want to do. This is an easy way to gain cyber mentoring. If you start following someone you admire on Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter, you can comment wisely on their posts and get them to engage with you. This initial foray, among like-minded practitioners, will often lead to a more personal engagement. If you are really social media savvy this engagement can go from the virtual setting to a one on one conversation. How cool would that be?
Third, remember there are some ethical requirements you need to know, remember and follow while on social media. What you say needs to be both neutral and educational. Be cognizant of the fact that what you are saying may be seen as solicitation or legal advice and take steps to nip that misunderstanding in the bud. If you don’t, it could cause trouble. Blogging on a topic in an authoritative manner, with a one-dimensional solution, may be misinterpreted as legal advice. To keep yourself safe follow best practices and use appropriate disclaimers. Post wisely to avoid sanctions.
Now you may be saying, I’m just not going to claim my place on the Internet. But, deciding to forgo participation in social media won’t save you. The Model Rules of Ethics for attorney conduct now includes a requirement that you have familiarity with technology. Saying you are tech-ignorant no longer flies. Everyone constantly worries about the ethical nature of information they disseminate on the Internet. I love this quote from Olivia Nussi, a political reporter for the Daily Beast, in which she writes “Dance like no one is watching; email like it may be read aloud in a deposition one day.” There is a great article by Dr. Ken Broda-Bahm, which applies this quote to the legal profession, included here. Broda-Bahm’s article speaks directly to attorneys about email, social media, and their pitfalls while also giving a few rules of thumb to follow so that you sleep at night. This Rezoom SPU post will also give you a few key people to follow to assure your tech-knowledge ID current.
The answer to the initial question of this post, whether rezooming attorneys should be on social media is a resounding Yes. You should get on the Internet and put your rezooming practice out there. The best place to start is LinkedIn. You need only list your picture, education and practice area. If you choose to go further, such as listing services you provide you will need to put a disclaimer at the bottom of your practice information. The disclaimer should say something like Attorney Advertising – Prior Results Do Not Ensure Similar Outcomes. Read a few you see used by colleagues and copy the one you like best. You should also say, No attorney-client relationship is established based on the information you have given or a solicitation for a conversation you may have offered on your LinkedIn or Facebook profile.
You also need to check those wonderful recommendations people posted on your LinkedIn page. You need to vet them to make sure they don’t refer to you as a specialist or an expert. We all remember our law school ethics class. We were admonished never to use those two buzzwords; they will get us in trouble. If someone wants to write about you ask them to do it in a way that reflects the relationship they had with you. Simply have them focus on the service you provided not your expertise or specialization.
LinkedIn is a great place to friend people who are in the field you would like to work. Follow them and their blog posts, comment and share so that they see you as an engaged member of their linked in circle.
Twitter is another great forum to follow people who are doing the things you are doing or would like to do. Commenting on, reposting or retweeting a Twitter posts that resonates with you is the sincerest form of flattery. It can also start a dialogue with someone you might never be able to meet otherwise, along with the people following them. It has endless possibilities. All you do is retweet or comment on something you thought was well written, in 140 characters or less, and you have engaged. It will not be seen as an endorsement if you remember to comment in a way that focuses on education and not solicitation.
One caveat we all need to remember as we enter the world of cyber commentary is to keep your comments neutral. It’s when you get into serious debates on social media that things we post can get us in trouble. Educating people generally will always bring positive influence into the social media sphere.
In my area of work, mediation of conflicts between people over animals, I often follow and comment on animal rights and animal welfare Twitter postings because I want to engage. I engage using the hashtag #PeacefulConversation. I have successfully followed filmmakers and activists who actually wanted to have a peaceful conversation and repeated my hashtag. We engage and have a peaceful conversation on Twitter. That is key. It’s about engaging in proactive conversations not reactive conversations.
If you want to learn more about safely navigating social media I recommend following the following three people, Ignatius Grande (@igrande), Nicole Black (@nikiblack) and Scott Malouff (@scottmalouf) as well as Dr. Ken Broda-Brahm. These three attorneys know the ins and outs of safely venturing into cyberspace. Not only do they know social media, they help attorneys use social media to collect evidence to defend or protect their client. Connect with them on LinkedIn and follow them on twitter. They present and post way to use social media for your benefit while staying out of ethical hot water.
Now that you feel safer about engaging in social media as a rezooming attorney get out there and friend, like and find mentors to help you successfully find your virtual path of least resistance back into the law.
All opinions, advice, and experiences of guest bloggers/columnists are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions, practices or experiences of Solo Practice University®.