Thanks for joining us for the fourth installment of the new lawyer disaster stories series! This week, the story seems like a no-brainer. Still, I can attest that it is a true story, and one that cannot be left untold.
“Our law firm represented a well-known athlete in a highly sensitive, career defining contract dispute. The dispute was in the early stages and, for PR and other reasons, the athlete did not want anyone to know he was talking with lawyers. The athlete came into the office for a meeting and a firm staff member saw him in a conference room. The staff member posted this information to Facebook, exposing the fact that this athlete was at the office and meeting with attorneys for a number of hours. This staff member was let go the next day.”
How to avoid this disaster:
Your instinct may be to say that this would never happen to you. Good. I hope it never does. But, in light of the fact that use of Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube and other social media is now wholly commonplace, we are all increasingly comfortable freely sharing information with our friends, colleagues, and peers. This staff member used terrible judgment and made an inexcusable error. Still, it is not out of the realm of possibilities that our casual use of social media can unknowingly jeopardize our clients (or worse, our attorney-client confidences) and our careers.
As a rule of thumb, never share any information about your work, your office, your colleagues or your clients on social media sites. Never mention anything that you learn in the course of representing a client on social media (or anywhere else, for that matter), either.
You should also never complain about your work – or anything related to your work – on social media. This not only reflects badly on you, you are building a damaging paper trail in the event your employer is ever looking for a reason to let you go. Additionally, when you complain about your work on social media sites, you are broadcasting the fact that you freely complain about your work/boss/colleagues/clients, etc. without discretion – so, you are less likely to be hired by others who know this about you.
In short, you can never be too careful on social media or when speaking about your work. While you may not be the person who openly talks about a famous client on Facebook, often times, it is something subtle that can be equally damaging or dangerous.