Recent rulings and advisories by the National Labor Relations Board regarding social media policies in the workplace impact law firms in a variety of ways. Today’s New York Times article by Steven Greenhouse reviews how the NLRB is basically telling employers to scale back limitations as it relates to many social media policies that might be seen as illegal blanket restrictions.
The NLRB says workers have a right to discuss work conditions freely and without fear of retribution, whether you are in the employee cafeteria or on Facebook. Although Facebook might have better food options (I said that. It is not in the article).
The bottom line–many companies are rewriting social media rules. If you want to read about social media in the workplace from an employment law perspective, you are better off going to Molly DiBianca on The Delaware Employment Law Blog. I’m here to discuss the potential impact on the law firm from an ethics compliance and business development perspective.
Having taught social media courses at many law firms, written a few of the policies myself, and conducted ethics compliance reviews for a number of the AMLAW 200, I can tell you that some of the policies–both written, unwritten and suggested–are somewhat out of whack with recent developments. I often remind some firms that they might “suggest” or “guide” employees (lawyers and staff alike), but some of the policies I’ve seen have been overbroad and overreaching. The Rules of Professional Conduct take care of many of the ethics issues for the lawyers. However, there are plenty of gray areas as they relate to LinkedIn profiles, Facebook posts and tweets.
Be sure your law firm’s approach to social media is appropriate. Because it is one thing to read about a corporation coming out on the short end of these rulings; it is another for a client to see you listed as one of the offending parties.