Dos and don'ts of social media for solicitors
The growth in use of social media by law clients has resulted in an expectation that the legal profession will embrace it too. Here’s a guide of what you can and can’t post.
Any person employed by a law firm will have come across the SRA code of conduct. To recap, the SRA code of conduct is a guide of compliance, and some of its policies apply directly to social media.
- Lawyers are required by the code to:
- Uphold the rule of law and the proper administration of justice.
- Act with integrity.
- Behave in a way that maintains the trust the public places in you and in the provision of legal services.
- Run your business, or carry out your role in the business, in a way that encourages equality of opportunity and respect for diversity.
All of these points describe what you should be doing on your social-media profiles. With these in mind, you need to avoid:
Offensive or pejorative comments relating to protected characteristics.
- Generally derogative terms.
- Sexually explicit comments.
- The making of comments that harass or victimise.
- The use of language intended to shock or threaten.
So what does this mean in practice?
Social media by its very nature encourages instant communication, and sometimes professionalism becomes an afterthought. You must be aware of the content you’re posting, especially where you’re known to be a solicitor or are identifiable. Anonymity is never guaranteed, and privacy settings aren’t always enough.
You can be penalised for circulating derogatory comments made by others, even if you weren’t the original author. For example, if you retweet someone else’s tweet expressing racist content, you could be seen as implicitly endorsing that content. The clear-cut solution to this is to think before you type—or share.
If you misuse social media, you could receive a hefty fine; be liable for costs; have to rebuke comments made, and ultimately have your practicing certificate suspended or completely revoked.
Failure to comply with these principles could see you before the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal. Such communications might, by virtue of being offensive, threatening or harassing, constitute criminal offences or amount to failures under the Equality Act 2010.