Recently, A New Jersey attorney made the headlines, and for all the wrong reasons. On an employment law class action suit, Lina Franco, missed a class certification deadline and 9 days later filed for a belated extension, her reason being she had a sudden family emergency that required her immediate travel to Mexico City. With her plea for an extension and sympathetic reason for her absence, she also submitted her alleged travel itinerary. However, the other side, grew suspicious looking at the legitimacy of her travel documents and then went looking at her personal social media pages for answers. After going to her Franco’s personal Instagram account, which happened to be linked directly from her business website, the opposing counsel viewed pictures which instead showed her at leisure in NYC and vacationing in Miami during the time of her reported family emergency in Mexico City and she was caught in a lie. After admitting that she misrepresented the court, she faced sanctions of $10,000, withdrew from the case, and ultimately, turned her Instagram account to private.
Social Media has proven a powerful tool to connect with people in a personal or and professional manner. However, with such an enormous potential for massive outreach, there is also a huge risk for missteps. What, then, are some common-sense rules that attorneys can keep in mind to achieve and avoid for maintaining their personal social media account?
- Keep Business and Personal Pages Separate! More lawyers are creating social media “pages” of their official business practices to establish relationships and help facilitate business inquires, while maintaining their own “personal” pages socially. However, it is crucial not to mix your professional and business accounts. Don’t advertise your legal practice on your personal page, nor chronical your hobbies or family vacation pictures, for instance, on your business page. Also, never directly link your personal pages from your professional business website.
- Private or Public Profile? Do you want a “public” account or a “private” account only visible to the family and friends that you select? You can adjust the privacy mode under your account settings. Additionally, many professionals now attempt to shield their personal pages under pseudonym or nicknames, so their personal pages do not come up in search engines. Keep in mind, though, going under a nickname will not protect you if a potential client does happen find your profile and it is not protected under the right privacy settings.
- Be Careful who your Friends are! Generally, it is a better idea to encourage clients to follow your professional business pages, rather than personal pages, although, it is permissible to “Friend” or “Follow” a client on social media, and vice versa. However, never communicate through or disclose any information relating to their past or present legal issues through a social media network or their messaging channel.
- Be Nice! You must keep in mind that your friends on your Facebook are not just a network of friends, but maybe potential clients or potential referrals. Be respectful with your posts and avoid being overly critical or polarizing viewpoints. You don’t ever want to find out you may have lost a potentially huge case because of something silly as just a political reference, or an off-hand joke that made someone misjudge your character.
- You are in Control! Finally, don’t fear social media, as it is a great way to connect. Your personal pages will only show the information unto world the information which you put out, so you ultimately control the image in which you are to be seen. If you are prudent in knowing the way you want the world to view you, you will be fine. So, so forth, connect, and have at it!