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Managing Facebook in the Legal Profession

Today, CLE programs abound discussing the proper and ethical use of social media by attorneys.  In Facebook in One Hour for Lawyers (KF 320.I57 K46 2012), a recent addition to the law library’s collection, authors Dennis Kennedy and Allison C. Shields discuss both basic and advanced features of Facebook and how these can be employed in the legal profession.  No matter how long you’ve been using Facebook (or even if you’ve never used Facebook), this text offers excellent discussion of the ethical implications of your Facebook choices.  Unlike many resources that might tell you to delete your Facebook account before looking for jobs, this text enthusiastically encourages the use of Facebook by attorneys, but in a mindful manner.

The chapters are arranged as progressive lessons, walking the reader through the process of setting up a Facebook account, managing one’s privacy and security settings, and building a profile.  Each lesson offers practical advice about what one’s choices will mean in terms of who can view or otherwise access your profile.  At less than 200 pages, this book is brimming with useful information (and will probably in fact only take you, as the title suggests, about an hour to peruse).

The following are a few highlights from the book:

  • General Principles of Facebook use (pp. 28-29): When setting up your account, assume Facebook intends to share more than you might intend and consequently “assume more people can see your Facebook activities than you think.”  This means you need to go through each privacy and security setting, understand what each does, and set them according to your comfort level.  With the frequent changes that occur in Facebook, however, you cannot “set and forget” – it is important to check your settings from time to time.
  • Security (p. 32): Security settings are discussed at length, but one particularly good piece of advice was to turn on secure browsing for your Facebook account; this helps keep your account safe when using public WiFi.
  • Privacy (p. 35): We are most often told to delete our Facebook accounts because of foolish things we may have posted in the past that potential employers would still be able to see; however, as the authors point out, there is now a feature on Facebook that allows you to limit the audience for individual posts.  Essentially you can alter how your profile appears to different people (i.e. Friends versus Public).  You can see how your profile appears to these groups by using the “View As” feature on your profile.
  • Pages versus Profiles (beginning at p. 61): Lesson 4 discusses Facebook pages.  If your intent is to create a Facebook account for your firm rather than yourself, Facebook now asks that you create a page rather than a profile.  This lesson offers suggestions for this type of account.
  • Advanced Topics (beginning at p. 137): Perhaps most helpful in this book are the advanced topics located at the back.  Where the lessons focus on setting up and managing a Facebook account, the advanced topics focus more on ethical and legal implications of Facebook accounts.  These topics include “Ethics” (pp. 137-47), “Separating Your Personal from Your Professional Presence” (pp. 149-52), “Facebook Apps” (pp. 153-57), “Litigation and Discovery” (pp. 159-61), and some final “Tips” (pp. 163-69).

Even if you’ve been using Facebook since its inception, this book is worth a read.  There’s no denying that social media has made its way into the legal profession, but the choices made in one’s Facebook account can have serious ethical and legal implications.  This is certainly not the only resource available discussing these issues, but for a quick read on the subject, check it out.

And while you’re at it, “like” the law library on Facebook!  At the beginning of the year I set a challenge that we would give away a $25 Starbucks gift card once we reach 100 likes.  We’re getting closer, but we can’t give it away until we make that goal, so like us (and if you already have, tell a friend!).
Source: Dennis Kennedy & Allison C. Shields, Facebook in One Hour for Lawyers (2012).


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