Solely Social or Used to Promote?

H/T to Kevin O’Keefe and Heather Morse for bringing this to my attention.

As was suggested in the Horace Hunter Legal Blogging vs. Advertising Saga, the Florida Bar clings to the “solely for social” vs. “used to promote” distinction for judging whether lawyer advertising rules apply:

Pages of individual lawyers on social networking sites that are used solely for social purposes, to maintain social contact with family and close friends, are not subject to the lawyer advertising rules.

Pages appearing on networking sites that are used to promote the lawyer or law firm’s practice are subject to the lawyer advertising rules. These pages must therefore comply with all of the general regulations set forth in Rule 4-7.2. Regulations include prohibitions against any misleading information, which includes references to past results, promises of results, and testimonials. Regulations also include prohibitions against statements characterizing the quality of legal services. Lawyers and law firms should review Rule 4-7.2 in its entirety to comply with its requirements. Additional information is available in the Handbook on Lawyer Advertising and Solicitation on the Florida Bar website.

I don’t get this at all. I guess I’m just dumb. Could someone please explain this to me? You can use these hypothetical examples to start:

I’m a criminal lawyer, my website contains a picture of me at a fundraiser for The Innocence Project with famous people.

Solely social or used to promote?

A lawyer tweets back in forth with another lawyer in a general manner about a recent experience that they had on case. A non-lawyer sees these tweets and thinks, “hey this guy knows what he’s talking about, I’m going to give him a call about my case.”

Solely social or used to promote?

A lawyer posts a facebook status update that they were just elected President of their state’s Trial Lawyers Association. A prospective client reads this update and decides to call the lawyer about their situation.

Solely social or used to promote?

A lawyer authors a blog post about a recent case in the news. The lawyer comments about what they think went wrong in the case and what their experience has taught them about these types of cases. A prospective client facing a similar situation reads the post and calls the lawyer about handling their case.

Solely social or used to promote?

Of course, we can think of examples of lawyer communications that fit nicely into these clean buckets.

Unfortunately, I would suggest, that the overwhelming majority of lawyer communications don’t.

They exist somewhere in between.

Worlds Colliding

This idea of partitioning personal and promotional social profiles, personas, etc, always make me think of when George’s Worlds Collide:

Some lawyers write blog posts purely for their love of writing and/or educating the public. But I’m pretty confident that these lawyers don’t mind it when people start reading and sharing what they’ve written, which expands their recognition, and develops new professional relationships.

Some lawyers use Facebook because they want to look at their friends’ and family’s baby pictures. However, sometimes clients reach out to friend them. Perhaps one of these clients sings the lawyer’s praises on Facebook. Solely social or used to promote?

Is it even reasonable to expect lawyers to create these distinctions?

Should the LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook accounts of lawyers be cut-off from the rest of the world?

And what about my post? I’m motivated to write this because I truly think these rules are silly and I think you should think about them. On the other hand, this post might get shared by others (might…). Which might lead to me meeting or connecting with someone professionally.

Solely social or used to promote?