Social Media Policy

Purpose

Social networking is becoming increasingly popular among lawyers, as well as with the general public. While social networking can be useful, if improperly used it can result in a variety of adverse consequences, such as unintended attorney-client relationships, contrary positions advocated against the firm or its clients, disclosure of sensitive or confidential information, copyright violations, violations of the rules of professional conduct, and potential damage to the firm's reputation.

 

Definition

As used in this policy, "social networking" means communicating with others over the Internet for social, professional, or other purposes on sites such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Martindale.com Connected, and YouTube. It can also occur on "media sites" that are offered by television networks, newspapers, magazines, and others, and permit readers to post comments. Social networking also includes participation on listservs and authoring or posting to Web logs (blogs).

Scope

This policy applies to all types of social networking activity either: (1) using firm computers, mobile devices, or other technology; (2) using nonfirm technology when linked to the firm's systems; or (3) personal computing systems or nonfirm technology that is not linked to the firm’s systems. When

engaged in social networking on nonfirm technology that is not linked to the firm's systems, lawyers and staff must not be identified as being affiliated with the firm, and must not provide legal advice or counsel.

Policy

 

Information Technology (IT) Policy

Personal use of the firm's IT systems to access social networking sites is permitted, but should be done in a professional and responsible manner, and should be limited, not interfere with or affect normal business operations of the firm, comply with all firm policies, not compromise the security or reputation of the firm, not expose client, confidential, or proprietary information, not interfere with an employee’s regular work duties, not burden the firm with unreasonable incremental costs, and comply with all other provisions of this policy.

 

Contact Information

Many networking sites ask users to import contact information en masse from their contact lists, and some sites attempt to do so surreptitiously. To protect client and firm confidential information, users to whom this policy applies are not permitted to export or upload any client contact information to any networking site, nor are they permitted to export or upload any contact information for firm personnel obtained from any contacts database, address book or other source provided by the firm. Users also should be aware of efforts to obtain such information surreptitiously and take steps necessary to protect client and firm confidential information.

 

Content of Postings

Some social networking sites may provide an appropriate forum to keep current on matters of interest, to make professional connections and to locate links to other pertinent sources. Users must be careful, however, that their online postings do not adversely impact or create problems for the firm, its lawyers or its clients. Users are personally responsible for all content they post on social networking sites.

 

Remember that it is difficult to delete content once posted to a site, so be cautious and exercise good judgment in posting any content.

If a user has a question about the propriety of any posting, he or she should consult the firm’s general counsel/loss prevention partner. Users must comply with the following for all postings:

 

  1. Do not provide legal advice or counsel, because doing so could create an attorney-client relationship, even if unintended.
  2. Do not reveal any confidential or proprietary information, trade secrets, or any other material covered by the attorney/client privilege or the firm’s Confidentiality Agreements.
  3. Do not take any position on a legal issue unless posting to a firm-sponsored blog after receiving approval from your practice group leader.
  4. Do not post any content that constitutes defamation, plagiarism, harassment, advertising, a copyright violation or claims of special expertise or experience.
  5. Do not post anything that may harm or tarnish the image, reputation, and/or good will of the firm, its clients, the staff, or you, including photographs or other images.
  6. Do not discuss trade secrets, and similarly protected proprietary and confidential information regarding firm business unless the firm has authorized you to do so. Do not discuss clients or include client-specific information in a blog posting unless the client has provided advance written approval. Generally, if a hypothetical based on a client situation is presented, it should not include information that would allow the client or any third party to identify the client or the matter involved. If there is any possibility that a client or a third party might recognize a client in a hypothetical, the author must obtain advance written approval from the client to use the hypothetical.
  7. Identify all copyrighted or borrowed material with appropriate citations and links and obtain permissions when necessary. Follow all laws pertaining to the handling and disclosure of copyrighted or export controlled materials.
  8. Ensure that your posting is accurate, truthful, respectful, and is spelled correctly with appropriate grammar, language and tone.
  9. Use the same judgment in writing your posts that you would in writing any formal letter. Post only content that you would be comfortable having the firm, your colleagues, your clients and the general public read, hear or see.
  10. Be aware that the rules of professional conduct apply, including the advertising and solicitation rules.
  11. Obtain approval from the firm's general counsel/loss prevention partner before responding to an inaccurate, accusatory or negative comment about the firm, its lawyers or its clients; inquiries from journalists on issues related to the firm, its lawyers or its clients; or inquiries about any other legal matter.
  12. Respect all copyright and other intellectual property laws regarding the trademarks, use the firm's logos or any other firm intellectual property. Unless previously authorized by the firm, do not suggest you are writing on behalf of the firm. Only individuals authorized to speak to the media on behalf of the firm may post in the name of the firm.

 

Participation in Third-Party Blogs and Chat Rooms

Any use of the firm's IT systems to participate in legal chat rooms or to post on third-party legal blogs should be rare and limited to circumstances related to firm business. No one may attribute personal statements, opinions or beliefs to the firm when engaged in blogging or social media. If one is expressing his or her beliefs and/or opinions, he or she may not, expressly or implicitly, represent themselves as an employee or representative of Dinsmore. Employees assume any and all risk associated with blogging or engaging in Social Media Use. Lawyers writing in such legal chat rooms or posting to third-party legal blogs must refrain from appearing to offer: (1) legal advice or counsel; (2) unauthorized political advocacy; and (3) unauthorized endorsement or appearance of endorsement by the firm of any commercial product or service not provided by the firm. Information provided must be limited to that which may be spoken in any other public forum. Only individuals authorized to speak to the media on behalf of the firm may write in the name of the firm in any chat room or post in the name of the firm on any third-party blog.

 

Prohibition on Client Communications

Due to privacy, confidentiality and document preservation concerns, communicating with clients on social networking sites about legal matters is prohibited. If a client initiates such a communication, the lawyer should advise the client that "due to privacy and privilege and confidentiality concerns, firm personnel cannot discuss legal matters on networking sites," and request that the client call or send an e-mail.

 

Prohibition on Pretexting

While the use of the Internet and certain networking Web sites can be valuable for research on particular individuals, using those sites for "pretexting," that is, posing as a confidante or as one who is seeking a genuine social or business relationship to obtain information, has significant ethical and legal implications. Users of social networking sites are, therefore, prohibited from using sites for pretexting.

 

Prohibition on Communicating with Represented Persons or Obtaining Others' Privileged Information

Users must avoid: (1) communicating with another individual they know is, or may be, represented by another lawyer; and (2) seeking or obtaining an opponent's privileged information.

 

Disclaimer Statement

Except for firm-sponsored activity, postings to social networking sites for work-related reasons should include the following disclaimer: "The statements and views expressed in this posting are my own and do not reflect those of my law firm, are intended for general informational purposes only, and do not constitute legal advice or a legal opinion."

Enforcement

Any personnel found to have violated this policy may be subject to disciplinary action, up to and including termination of employment.

References

For more general information related to Social Networking and Legal Ethics, please review content posted on the Marketing Department page on Dinslink under the Media Relations Section.

Owner

 Chief Marketing Officer and Chief Human Resources Officer

 

7.0  Revision History

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