10/13/17

Being a lawyer and sharing on social media

Sharing, clothes and looking the part of a lawyer by @Lihsa


I love social media. It’s a fascinating look into the minds of 2 billion people.

Admittedly, it can, at times, get pretty ugly in there. But then there are places of transcendence and valor; beauty and joy.

Social media is like wearing clothes: you can choose to wear a dirty t-shirt bearing a foul logo. Or you can choose to wear a Chanel evening gown. Your choice.

Being a lawyer and sharing on social media


Social media is the perfect democracy. Love it or hate it, it takes a lot of very, very bad behavior before you get banned.

I wouldn’t want to ever be in the position of @jack or @kevin and have to make a decision as to who gets kicked off of a social media site. What an ethical dilemma: do I have the right to shut somebody up on a forum that was built around the concept of free speech? Criminey; it’s all too darned close to playing god.

But I digress.

What not to post on social media


First, let’s talk about what not to post. I follow 3 rules:
  1. Is it kind?
  2. Is it necessary?
  3. Is it true?
Every time I talk about social media to lawyers, I remind them that as a lawyer, you are an officer of the court. Whether you like it or not, you are held to a higher standard. Even when you are off the clock. Where ever you go—to a party, to the grocery store, to the barbershop—you represent your client, your firm and the reputation of all lawyers. It can be a bit of a burden.

Of course, you have to bear in mind ethical rules. I would recommend reading the ABA (@ABAesq) article, 10 Tips for Avoiding Ethical Lapses when Using Social Media. Basically, don’t post anything that:
  1. breaches client (or would-be client) confidentiality
  2. breaks or creates attorney-client privilege 
  3. is false or misleading
So we’ve all learned to think before we share. Generally, I’d also advise that you stay away from any online controversy. It is too fraught with misinterpretation, misfires and can quickly turn ugly. Political statements are never going to add to any online conversation and run the risk of alienating friends and colleagues. I, personally, have never heard anyone say, “Yep, that incendiary post really got me to thinking. I’m going to change my entire position on the issue.” Never happens. So what’s the point?

I am not saying that you aren’t entitled to have an opinion and to speak your mind. But why put it on social media where it can come back to haunt you? It just isn’t worth it. I’ve found that sharing my opinions—especially online—isn’t that important. Opinions are like clothing; everybody wearing them.

What to post on social media


So what’s left? Rainbows and butterflies? Well, some days its seems that way. I remember there was a week where all I could post were pictures of Fiona the Hippo and the Gilmore Girls. Social media was not being very kind, necessary or true that week.

But that’s when I realized that it is my moral imperative to stand still in the social media storm and share. I never felt this more strongly than during Hurricane Harvey. I felt compelled to post and share on legal aid (@thehba), mayoral press conferences (@SylvesterTurner) and the flood district communique (@ReadyHarris). I certainly won’t sit here and say that I saved anyone’s life. But I do believe that I could do my part to quell the raucous rumors, distribute good information and push down the negativity.

Sometimes that’s all we can do: drown out the noise. And sometimes that takes the form of a cat post.

Sure, it is silly and may seem a bit goody-two-shoes. But that post did its job: it shoved someone else’s nasty comment down.

So pick a few things that you like: horses, cars, boat racing, history, art. And talk it up. Sprinkle in a few posts about a colleague's speaking engagement. Talk about an organization's good work. Genuinely fan-girl (or fan-boy) on one of your heroes. And every once in a while, talk about your own events and articles.

You may think sharing is too personal and that it can expose you to criticism or make you look less professional. Meh. We are all living in this world. All of us have run into neighbors and colleagues at the grocery store. They’ve seen us with the pizza and ice cream in our carts. 

All we can do is own it and be sure that we’re wearing a clean shirt.

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