Offering a useful service for potential clients is the key to lawyers successfully using social media for client development, Lawyer-Coach president Debra Bruce said during a session at the State Bar of Texas Annual Meeting.
While offering a useful service, Bruce warned lawyers attending “Ethical Client Development for Legal Tweeps” that using social media could present some pitfalls leading to violations of the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct (TDRPC).
The biggest issue: Lawyers should use social media to provide information or education, not to solicit business directly from potential clients, she says. It would be a no-no if a lawyer posts on Twitter asking people to call him for help with driving-while-intoxicated charges.
“That moves it into an advertisement,” Bruce says in an interview, explaining the State Bar must approve lawyer ads.
LinkedIn also raises some ethical concerns for lawyers, Bruce said during the session. For example, a lawyer could gain attention from potential clients by answering legal questions in LinkedIn’s “Answer” section. However, other users may vote on the best answer, which labels that author as an “expert.” But the TDRPC prohibits lawyers from holding themselves out as experts unless they are board certified in their area of law, Bruce notes.
Bruce said some businesses attract “Likes” for their Facebook pages by offering people freebies in exchange for a “Like.” It would be interesting if a law firm gave away a legal e-paper for a “Like.” However, Bruce notes the TDRPC prohibits lawyers from giving anything of value in exchange for soliciting or referring clients.
“If you gave that free paper or that free book, is that something of value?” asked Bruce.
-- Angela Morris