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To tweet or not to tweet? That is the question!

7 August 2013

In recent years social media has become an integral part of how the world communicates. Businesses are also using social media as a way to promote their services to a wider audience. Sonia Aman, practice advice solicitor at the Law Society, looks at how social media can be a useful platform for practices.

If you want to build a presence in the social media platform, then you need to be present! (anon)

Recent research has highlighted the following challenges which solicitors are currently facing:

  • securing new business
  • marketing
  • finding the time to keep on top of legislative and regulatory changes
  • retaining clients
  • finding the time to plan for the future of the business

Social media can go some way to deal with these challenges. According to a recent report, solicitors are saying that they need more support in compliance issues and that they are increasingly looking to LinkedIn and other forums for advice.

By engaging in social media, solicitors can share ideas and discuss the challenges they face and how they are thinking of tackling them. The Law Society of Scotland carried out a poll of 500 solicitors which indicated that LinkedIn was the most popular social media channel and that the highest usage is by newly-qualified staff and trainee solicitors.

Solicitors and law firms are using social media to make their presence known, maintain a consistent 'voice' for the firm and to establish themselves as 'thought leaders'. Social media can be used to build relationships and create contacts and to promote your firm to potential clients. There is also the opportunity to engage with other commentators and read their views.

The Law Society, for example, has a number of social media channels including Twitter and these are used for member engagement, to share information, to promote events and to highlight its representation work.

A law firm could use social media to:

  • promote the firm's brand
  • discuss specialist topics with industry peers
  • source information and business intelligence from clients
  • share what is going on in the firm
  • comment on law related stories in the press
  • comment on the legal environment
  • engage with current and former clients
  • network

When embarking on your social media journey, consider the following issues:

  • what information do you wish to broadcast and to whom
  • which is the best social media channel to use to broadcast that information

Clearly, putting your firm's message 'out there' is going to be resource intensive and will require planning. It would also be prudent to monitor what is being said about your firm. The rewards should however outweigh the time spent in maintaining this tool of communication.

The very nature of social media is that it should be a 'free flowing exchange of comments'. This brings inherent risks, remember whatever you say will be available globally and may be difficult to erase.

Lexcel 4.5 requires firms to have a social medial policy in place which includes:

a: a procedure for participating in social media on behalf of the practice
b: the scope permitted and prohibited content
c: the person responsible for the policy
d: a procedure for an annual review of the policy, to verify it is in effective operation across the practice

All firms deciding to take advantage of social media should not do so without having a social media policy in place. The purpose of the policy is to safeguard your firm and to ensure that everyone has clear guidelines to follow when using social media, including all members of staff. It will also allow you to retain a degree of control and set out clear guidelines for behaviour and the firm's disciplinary procedures.

When writing your social media policy, you may find it useful to consider the following:

  • a definition of what social media is and which outlets it covers
  • the role of social media in relation to your firm
  • who the policy applies to
  • set out standards of behaviour
  • indicate which sites are accessible during working hours
  • provide clarity on postings
  • set out procedures to adopt if staff are subjected to online harassment or bullying
  • how to deal with negative comments
  • maintaining confidentiality
  • provide guidance on procedures that will be followed if the policy is breached
  • highlight that monitoring of social media sites will take place including the removal of posts which breach the policy
  • procedures to review the policy

It is also important to provide training to the staff involved to ensure that they are aware of the firm's values, the brand and the message that the firm wishes to promote.

You must also comply with the relevant parts of the SRA Code of Conduct 2011 relating to social media.

The Lexcel office provides a template social media policy. Please email the Lexcel office if you would like a copy.

For further advice, please see the Law Society's practice notes:

For general advice, call the Practice Advice Service on 020 7320 5675.