Andrew Perlman and I must have drunk the same spiked coffee this morning. In his post, below, he discusses the growing focus of disciplinary authorities on technological competence. This is one of the six legal ethics developments that my firm wrote about our 2013 ethics roundup. Andrew emphasizes the need for law schools and lawyers to make technological competence a priority going forward:
Technology is transforming the delivery of legal and law-related services, and lawyers who fail to keep abreast of new developments may suffer through an increased likelihood of discipline or an inability to compete effectively in the legal marketplace. And law schools that fail to prepare their students for these changes are doing their students (and their future employers and clients) a disservice.
I woke up this morning feeling compelled to write about similar issues with respect to social media. In 2014, as more attorneys turn to social media to market their businesses, and as younger lawyers who grew up online enter the market, we need to continue (and accelerate) our focus on developing ethical guidelines for attorney conduct online.
As some of you know, I speak and write frequently about social media ethics. About a year ago, I was asked a question at a CLE program that has stuck with me ever since. A big firm partner came up to me afterwards and said "I don't do any of this social media stuff, but what responsibility do I have for the young lawyers in the firm and what they post on social media?" This is a great question that no one has adequately addressed. My (admittedly somewhat lame) response was "the rules say you do have a duty to supervise subordinate attorneys. Maybe one place to start is to do a CLE program like this at your firm." He said he was interested and took my contact information, but I never heard from him.
Today I came across this article, which discusses the need for companies to train their employees on how to use social media. I relate to the author's frustration when he reads stories about ridiculous online behavior. I also agree that we need to shift our focus from the clueless employees to the oblivious-until-something-goes-wrong employers:
I get tired of reading stories about employees fired by their employer for some ill-conceived tweet, blog, photo or Facebook posting. Invariably, my first reaction is, “How can people be so reckless or dumb?” As these incidents kept repeating, I gained a new perspective, with employers playing a productive and preventative role. What if employers trained their workforce about the do's and don'ts for social media? Why not kick off the new year with just such an effort?
I could not agree more! And this applies doubly for law firms and legal organizations. They should make it their priority this year to develop reasonable written social media policies and conduct training for all of their attorneys on how to use social media effectively and ethically.