Posted on: July 18, 2019 by Huntersure
Social media use has filtered its way into our bloodstream as a society since sites like Facebook and Twitter began taking hold of the average American’s attention over a decade ago. Naturally, social media use expanded out to other areas besides posting baby pictures and finding out about the latest restaurant in your neighborhood. Businesses started using it to promote their services and politicians created profiles to get the word out about their platforms. But the issue for everyone from politicians to pilots to professional baseball players is related to the ethics around social media usage.
For lawyers, one slippage in use, such as posting something personal or harmful on a public profile, can lead to major repercussions. There have been times when lawyers have been disbarred due to attempts through social media to influence court decisions or get in contact with clients on the opposite side of a case. While every state’s bar rules are unique, there are still good rules of thumb when it comes to social media use among the legal community. Here are some things to know.
Some state bar associations treat social media profiles as advertisements that are legally sound, requiring attorneys in states to adhere to very specific advertising rules and codes. Attorneys may be required to label certain posts as advertising material at the beginning of each post. Also, lawyers may have to identify the person responsible for the content and include information for the firm’s office, such as contact information.
Not every state has these kinds of requirements, but not posting with disclaimers or the right information can bring about liability concerns for lawyers.
LinkedIn is a great way for professionals to get and stay connected, and stay plugged into the industry that they operate in. Getting recommendations on LinkedIn from connections can help to boost business and promote legal services, and even post testimonials on what a great job a lawyer performed on a case.
However, not all states allow this kind of posting as testimonials on social media may be looked at as violations. Some states allow testimonials and some require attorneys to add certain disclaimers or have additional restrictions on their usage. One way that lawyers can avoid any violations related to ethical LinkedIn usage is to screen each comment as it comes in before it is publicly posted.
Posting and responding to social media comments and links may be tempting, but lawyers should think twice before pulling the trigger. If an attorney responds to someone posting that they’ve been in an accident or need help with a legal situation, this could be the perfect bait for lawyers to cross the line.
Any kind of commenting can be looked at as offering help, which can land an attorney in a world of ethical issues. Lawyers who have a social media presence should look at it as nothing more than a landing page or opportunity to create notifications to promote the business. Engagement of any kind with clients or potential clients can be considered solicitation and break states rules.
While lawyers need to be careful to not cross a line when it comes to social media or online use, being prepared with the right kind of attorney liability insurance can help to provide financial help if an ethics claim is made. Even something considered to be harmless can be flagged and lead to issues in court.
Attorney liability insurance can help to cover the costs of a lawyer’s own legal fees during litigation. Even if a claim is dismissed, paying for an attorney can be costly. Having this kind of coverage can help to alleviate the stress around a claim, no matter how small it may seem.
At Huntersure, we specialize in providing quality professional liability solutions to accounting professionals. Our Accountant Liability Insurance program provides coverage for accountants, auditors, bookkeepers, and tax preparers, so no matter where your clients lie in the industry they can have the coverage they need to protect themselves and their assets. To learn more about our operation and our Professional Liability Insurance solutions, contact us today at (855) 585-6255.
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