One of the biggest problems with social media is that, after expressing a controversial opinion or making a mistake, the consequences are very difficult to predict.
Once the “post” button has been hit, there can be no guarantees what will happen next. Rapidly deleting or amending the offending tweet or post may not limit the damage either. It may already have been picked up and copied by any follower, perhaps within minutes of it being posted.
Solicitors should know better right ? Well, we all make mistakes and solicitors are not immune. Social media sites encourage opinions, and opinions can create buzz. Lawyers seem bland to many so I can understand why it’s tempting for solicitors to express their personal opinions, it’s a possible differentiator.
The context for all of the above is that today, a tweet from a solicitor got picked up by a popular blog, Legalcheek (you can find the article there, I am not directly linking to it !) and reported. The tweet in question has been interpreted as racist. The solicitor had already deleted the tweet but it is now “out there”.
We then move into the sphere of damage limitation. The upshot so far is that it seems the lawyer is leaving the firm, but the information given is that he was already leaving before the tweet. Some may agree with what the lawyer said in his tweet, and it’s even possible that he could get work from people because of his tweet. It’s equally possible that, unless he is setting up on his own, there may be implications for his next job. Serious stuff. Googling the person may very soon mean that the article from Legal Cheek and others about the issue may come up prominently. Unless all references to the tweet are deleted, it may well “follow” him for some time.
But what about other potential implications ? Even though the opinion ( if we call it that – it could have been a mistake or not even an opinion as such, could have maybe been a joke, who knows ?) was that of a single solicitor and apparently not endorsed in any way or known about by the firm (the firm name is not on the twitter profile of the solicitor), it is conceivable that the firm might have clients who are outraged and change law firms. Such clients could be big and important clients – what then ? Could or would the law firm sue the solicitor ? Do they have a social media policy ? The implications and ramifications can be large and unknown for some time to come.
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