Law Society urges social networking caution
The Law Society is warning solicitors to be cautious about adding a client on sites such as Facebook for fear of merging professional and personal lives leading to a breach of client confidentiality.
To assist practitioners and practices in using social media, the Law Society has issued professional guidance outlining the benefits and risks, the importance of individuals and businesses reviewing their social media ‘presence’ and privacy settings, as well as information on setting up social media for business.
Online social networking provides opportunities for the legal profession, both commercially and in terms of professional networking, but also presents challenges to the core duties of solicitors.
If you make ‘friends’ with clients on Facebook, for example, you should evaluate whether this may affect any of your ethical obligations.
Law Society president John Wotton said adding clients on social media sites even if you have a very good relationship with them, could cross boundaries and breach the solicitors code of conduct.
“There could be several implications in adding a client on some social media sites. Your professional integrity could be questioned if details of your private life is revealed while the client could unwittingly post sensitive information on your page, which would compromise confidentiality or impact ongoing cases.
“You may think your profile is reasonably innocuous but you cannot always control the information other people share, such as comments or photo tagging.
“We advise keeping your professional life separate from your personal social networking activities. Anything posted online is accessible in the public domain.”
There are networking sites that are specifically geared towards professional use, such as LinkedIn, Biznik and Focus, which the Law Society views as more appropriate for solicitors to add clients or colleagues as contacts.
However, you should think about having systems and policies in place for the management of your firm’s social media usage, irrespective of the type of service provided by the social media site.
The Law Society’s Guide to Social Media can be found at www.lawsociety.org.uk/productsandservices/practicenotes/socialmedia/5049.article.