A 6 Word Social Media Policy for Law Firms… and What you Need to Make it Work

As you've probably noticed, I'm not a huge fan of law firms irrationally imposing their imperial will upon their slaves staff. That's particularly the case when it comes to social media. So I've solved it for you – thank me later.

social media policy law firms

Hopefully you haven't just scrolled past completely, because I'm going to give you the answer right at the start, thus failing every “keep them guessing” rule of blog writing that's supposed to make you read to the end.

Ready – here's your new 6 word social media policy:

We trust you. Go your hardest.

At This Point…

I should clarify that I'm not an idiot. Honest.

I'm not ignorant of the risks that come with staff and social media. I also know a number of times when staff have done stupid things which have reflected badly on their firms.

But personally I believe that the opportunity you're missing by having a firm-wide social media policy in place far outweighs the risks of people of substance doing something terminally dumb.

But, much like blogging, the policy needs a few pieces in place to work properly.

Social Media Mastery

In law firm social media, somebody's got to have a clue and be prepared to use itClick To Tweet

Many firms have rigid but ridiculous social media policies largely because they actually have no clue about social media.

They don't monitor what's going on.

They don't know what's possible.

They don't have internal mastery.

And so out of fear about what might happen, they put the brakes on everything so that their staff don't go faster into an area than the firm is capable of.

If you're going to trust your staff as you should, then you need to have some kind of mastery of social media inside your firm. I'm not saying that every single partner has to be Gary Vaynerchuk, but somebody's got to have a clue and be prepared to use it.

Quality Staff

If you can't trust your staff not to bad mouth you on social media, or say something at odds with your values, then:

  • you've hired bad people; or
  • you haven't communicated your values well.

Either way, it's kind of your fault.

Hire quality people, and make sure they're on the same page.

Appreciation of Hypocrisy

Let's say we're talking about lawyers.

You trust them to:

  • speak with clients on the phone
  • go to networking events involving alcohol
  • hit the Friday night d-floor
  • draft documents
  • handle money
  • draft bills
  • comply with ethical guidelines
  • advise on multi-million dollar business outcomes.

But you don't trust them to write a tweet?

Ironic, much?

The Ability to Speak

The best response to somebody who you think is inappropriately using social media isn't normally reference to a policy.

It's a conversation.

Yep – a quick chat.  Point out what they did, and why you don't love it.

Ask them if they disagree.

Request they don't do it again.

I mean, you could message them on LinkedIn about it if you want… just to keep it “social”.

Empowerment

See, this policy isn't just about avoiding risk, it's about seeing results.

And the main component to that is empowering your people.

Train them.

Teach them.

Help them.

Guide them.

Don't just write a policy telling them all the things you don't want them to do.

Which obviously requires you to have paid attention to the “mastery” step earlier.

Firms don't do these things, because firms don't have the internal strength in the area.

That's fine: hire someone.

Back to our Social Media Policy

All most policies succeed in doing (if somebody actually reads them) is to strike fear into the hearts of your staff. Which means they'll do nothing, which is about how much you'll achieve with their help.

People like being trusted. They like being empowered.

Here's our policy again, in case you scrolled to the bottom:

We trust you. Go your hardest.

Happy Lawyering!

  • I think many lawyers might say none of the things that a lawyer is trusted to do is publically broadcast to the world. I can understand why, given the inclination of journalists under time and cost pressures to just lift tweets etc and repeat stories from online, that firms are concerned about a consistent messaging, which is not something you want to lose. That said, there is plenty of room to employee lawyers to use social media to help boost the firm and a “Don’t Do what Johnny Don’t Do Does” style policy isn’t helpful.

    • Haha – Johnny Don’t Do 😉 Personally I’m not convinced in the virtue of “consistent messaging” – that’s usually just brand protection concerns, which I also think can be a little irrational. I also think it’s a lost opportunity. A lawyer should be trusted to publicly broadcast, don’t you think? Most (admittedly not all) lawyers are cautious enough that the risks are fairly low compared to the benefits of allowing people to develop their voice.

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