Social media raises familiar questions for law firms

I recently spoke at a state Continuing Legal Education program about how law firms prepare social media policies.

I recently spoke at a state Continuing Legal Education program about how law firms prepare social media policies. At the end of the program, during the traditional question-and-answer period, one hand shot up in the back of the room, and I was immediately transferred back in time with a question that was déjà vu all over again.

“How are firms dealing with the issue of professional responsibility as they apply to the world of social networking?”

I thought to myself, “Isn't this the exact same conversation that I participated in 20 years ago when I addressed an [American Bar Association] panel about the rules of professional conduct as they applied to print advertising?”

And, what may we all have learned from the lessons of print advertising that still apply today, as we deal with many of the exact issues in social media? I felt back then the same way that I feel today.

We could not look at the subject of advertising in 1994 as an issue that was homogeneous for the broad legal community. Personal injury lawyers were advertising on television, but we could not look at this the same way we viewed large, corporate firms sticking their toes into the world of print advertising.

The same holds true today. Is there a one-size-fits-all solution for entering the world of social media? I don't think so. I didn't think so about the subject of large law firm advertising almost 20 years ago and I certainly don't think that way about social networking. I believe that firms today need guidelines, not rules, and the marketplace itself will eventually determine what works and what is appropriate.

Jay Jaffe, president/CEO, Jaffe PR

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