Seeing Lisa’s post last night discussing lawyers being timid about putting their contacts on LinkedIn made me think of another story that I’ve heard lately. In fact, I’ve heard it so often, from different people, that I think it may  actually qualify as an “urban legend.” Okay… stop me if you’ve already heard this one:

“Did you hear that one of the attorneys in the firm got pulled off a case by a client? Yeah… Apparently the attorney joined a [LinkedIn and/or Facebook] group that was [pro / anti] – [gun control / environment / GLBT] and one of the clients saw it and got angry. Yeah… I know… So, the client told the Partner in charge to pull this attorney off of all of their matters. I hear that the firm is going to ban all social media that can be linked back to the firm because of this. Makes you want to shutdown your [Facebook/LinkedIn/Twitter] account, doesn’t it?”

Have you heard one of these stories? (I told you to stop me!!)

It reminds me of the urban legends like the choking dog, only to find out the dog was choking on the fingers of a robber that was still in the house… or the “don’t flash your lights” at cars that are driving with no lights on because it may be a gang initiation and they will kill you. Stories that play on a combination of fear and ignorance – not necessarily reality.

If you have a client that is that sensitive to what their attorney’s personal “likes” are… then you might want to stop putting out press releases where you did pro-bono work for Katrina victims, or abused women, or anything that might offend a client. Don’t accept those awards for Top Lawyers Under 40 (because your client may not want those young-un’s working on their matters). Don’t boast about the diversity in your firm, because your client may be a closeted bigot. Perhaps you just shouldn’t say anything at all… would that be a good marketing policy? Well, it probably wouldn’t be a great social media policy either.

Instead of making social media policy based on fear and ignorance, train your attorneys and staff about the benefits and the pitfalls that come with potentially exposing personal information to the world. Having people that understand the good and the bad of social media will make them smarter in the way they use it. I usually tell attorneys that the golden rule of social media is pretty simple – “just don’t say anything stupid.”