Friday 5: Social Media Ethics

Social media blocks
How can law firms use social media to expand their client base, and what RPCs might impact different social media marketing strategies?

At the March 28 WSBA Legal Lunchbox CLE, “Social Media Marketing Strategies for Attorneys,” CLE faculty Jeanne Marie Clavere, WSBA’s professional responsibility counsel, Greg McLawsen of Sound Immigration, and Sumeer Singla of Impact Law Group explored ways that law firms have used social media to expand their client base and reviewed how the RPCs may impact different social media marketing strategies.

This post by Greg McLawsen answers the top five questions received at last week’s Legal Lunchbox. The remaining audience questions are addressed in a separate post.

1. May an attorney request a reciprocal review from another attorney (“I’ll give you a nice review if you give me a nice review”)?
Attorneys have an affirmative responsibility to ensure that all of their marketing communications are not misleading. Jeanne Marie Clavere, WSBA’s professional responsibility counsel, noted there may not be anything problematic about giving a positive review to another attorney, then asking them if they would be willing to offer an honest review on your own profile, as long as it was based on real experiences.

2. Do you have a well-researched disclaimer/warning stating that an attorney’s response to a social media post does not create an attorney/client relationship?
Magic Language won’t save you. Instead, lawyers have to pay attention to the content of our communication with prospective clients. If I tell an Avvo user, “there’s no such thing as a statute of limitations in your case,” I wouldn’t expect a waiver to save me. Instead, avoid individualized advice and focus on restating general information.

3. How would you recommend handling a negative review of your legal representation made by a client on social media?
Cautiously. The general advice in these scenarios is to acknowledge the negative review, disclosing no information relating to the representation. Then, mitigate the impact of the negative review by flooding the site with positive reviews. Double-down on your efforts to ask all former and current clients – most of whom hopefully love you – for their input. More details in this ABA article.

4. Is it ethical to ask your clients to leave a positive review?
It’s ethical for you to ask your happy clients to leave reviews. But coaching a particular review could be seen as directing a misleading communication about your service. Get Five Stars is a tool that asks your clients to rate your performance privately. If the client gives you a good rating, they’re asked to write a public review. So the tool helps you collect good reviews from your biggest fans.

5. I have seen firms discuss the results of a case without naming the parties. Is that okay for marketing if you do not have direct consent from the client?
No. The correct view appears to be that RPC 1.6 would prohibit such use absent express or implied consent of the client.