Should Lawyers “Friend” Consumer Clients?
Social media is here to stay, and forward-thinking lawyers are taking advantage of the networking opportunities it offers. But what about when your consumer client seeks you out to connect on social media? Should you accept connection requests from clients? I’m a criminal defense attorney, and the way I’ve chosen to deal with it is to accept connection requests on some social networks, but not all.
What Are You Willing to Share?
For me, it boiled down to the types of information that I share on each network. So, where I share information related solely to my professional interests, such as on Twitter and LinkedIn, I am comfortable connecting with clients. But on Facebook I share personal information — including photos of my children and announcements of personal life events — so I don’t connect with my clients there. This is for two reasons:
1. I want to keep private things private. I use Facebook to keep in touch with family and friends. Accordingly, I share information about family members and personal opinions I believe will interest them. Since I prefer to keep my personal life private, I would rather not share that type of information with my clients.
2. My busy-ness is my business. I sometimes post about my social activities and out-of-town trips on Facebook. This is information I also choose not to share with my clients. In my opinion, by sharing this type of information, you run the risk that your clients will infer you aren’t working hard on their cases. And that’s a risk I’m unwilling to take.
How Can You Say No?
If you’re unsure how to politely decline a client’s request to connect, just explain (in the most gracious terms) that you only share personal information with family members and very close friends on the social network in question. But at the same time, you can invite them to “like” your law firm’s Facebook page, if you have one. Also, you can suggest they connect with you on an alternate social network, such as LinkedIn, where you interact and share with others in your professional circle.
At least that’s how I handle my clients’ requests to connect. For you, it may be a different story. Perhaps you refrain from posting personal information on all social media sites, and choose to use social media only as an extension of your firm’s business interests. Or, perhaps you only join those sites typically limited to professional purposes, such as LinkedIn.
Use the comments box below to share how you handle your social media connections with clients. We’ll all learn something.
Matt Spiegel is the Vice President and GM of MyCase, a cloud-based law practice management system. He is an attorney in San Diego and started his criminal defense law practice in 2009 after working with one of San Diego’s largest consumer law firms. As a practicing attorney and one of the founders of MyCase, he often speaks at legal conferences regarding the ins-and-outs of running a law practice and how cloud computing technologies can benefit the legal profession. He can be reached at email@example.com and @mattspiegelesq.
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