Facebook for Lawyers

Facebook… what can I say. I think it’s needed to grow business. More of my clients are online and almost none use paper directories. Just de-linked myself from the yellow pages. All my friends are on Facebook, even if they see each other 3 times a week. My secretary tells me that she checks her page every day, and my students in law school are checking email, Facebooking, Twittering and blogging their way through class. My blog goes out to my Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin accounts. So let me join the pack. But setting up a Facebook (FB) page is a different story, and one that is not so easy.

I had a personal page which I never used, but which was linked to my office email address. I had to delink the personal FB profile and set up a new law firm page on FB Pages, another animal of the same stripe. Many trials and errors and several confirmations later, I think I am successful. Now I have uploaded a new picture of me. Whew! Why do they make it so difficult to set up, yet release and track our private information?

For starters, create a profile associated with the FB Page for your business, not a personal profile. Sounds simple, but after a few tries we got it. Rather Ms. Ashley, my secretary, was the architect. For people associated with law, FB has some pitfalls. Lawyers can unwittingly create a client attorney relationship by just answering questions posted on their FB wall. The definition can be quite subjective, depending on jurisdiction and the recipient. It also means that by answering questions, the lawyer could be breaching confidentiality. Like the old ad line, “Show me the beef”, lawyers are required to factually support their prowess; no puffery allowed. Also, lawyers cannot answer legal questions outside their state(s). If you are in federal practice like immigration, that may be a different situation. I cannot invite you to be my friend if I want to target you as a client. It is called solicitation. I cannot join a chat room or an online discussion of the law, because I would be inadvertently creating legal expectations and client relationships with the participants. I want to be careful of witnesses, and careful of disclosing confidential information or prejudicing potential jurors. So now you have my reasons why I haven’t friended my waiting friends on FB. If I try to correct the record, Google and Yahoo keep electronic record of all posts. None of the posts to any social media are private. Immigration officers routinely surf FB, Linkedin, Twitter, Google and Yahoo, for information on the applicant. So do employers and potential life partners! Hey, so do college admission officers! This is true of family law, criminal and any other branch. And you thought it was only the CIA looking for Osama. In the old days, articles and messages from professionals went through a vetting process. Now anyone can and does publish. Relying on information on the web and social media can be risky. So after sounding like the doomsday oracle, I am still on FB and Twitter and Linkedin, but with all the caveats!

See you in my next post.

Nalini S Mahadevan, JD, MBA

Attorney at Law


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