We all live and work in a world dominated by social media. This is a modern phenomenon and it is growing and growing. We are surrounded by it in our personal and professional lives.
We are encouraged to use the various social media tools at our disposal on an increasing basis in our professional lives to promote ourselves, our firms, and the professional services and standards that we offer to our Clients.
Blogging, tweeting and posting have all become a way of life. Second nature even… A quick and effective way of promoting oneself, our colleagues, our employers and our services. With the relaxation of the Continuing Professional Development regime, and the focus on ensuring that solicitors remain competent through a variety of targeted training and development methods rather than racking up 16 hours of training per year, the use of social media is likely to become a more heavily used medium as part of a Solicitors’ ongoing training process. In addition to its use as a promotional tool, social media can also help practitioners to conduct research, follow industry developments, source reading materials, and to network with other professionals.
The Solicitors Regulation Authority website details the new ‘Continuing Competence Toolkit’ and this contains lots of information to guide us in how to develop our learning and development across our firms. Under the sub heading ‘How to Address Learning Needs’ the SRA addresses the various approaches that could be adopted including a section on social media (SRA - Toolkit).
Following blogs and Twitter accounts provides access to a wide range of information, experiences and views. This is a cost effective way to address gaps in your knowledge. Some solicitors ensure that their knowledge of their practice area or of the wider legal profession remains up to date by writing online articles or contributing to online discussions and debates.’
However… Be warned! With great power comes great responsibility. When it comes to producing online material – be it an article, blog submission, comment, or otherwise – it is important to consider what you are promoting and how you express your opinions, successes and lessons learnt.
A recent case involving a Sole Practitioner highlights the potential negative impacts of misguided social media use and a ‘serious error of judgement’. Please See the Law Society Gazette and an article dated 17.06.2016 here (Law Gazette) as a case in point.
There have also been many recent cases where employees have fallen foul of social media etiquette with reference to their social media policies at work.
Lessons to be Learnt:
- Embrace the new competency regime and the relaxation of the rules. The new regime will provide more flexibility in managing training needs. There will be so many more ways to evidence learning and training development
- Ensure that you are aware of internal policies regarding the use of social media before posting or commenting on articles and cases etc. or creating and uploading blogs. Seek input from your compliance champion/officer beforehand. Finally, be extra careful when comments or articles could be construed as made on behalf of and in the name of your firm’
Written by Charlotte Knight - Associate and Solicitor