Seminar focuses on value of social media for lawyers


By Mike Scott
Legal News

Social media impacts lawyers in many ways — client work, operationally, and from a marketing perspective.

Those will all be among the topics discussed Monday, Dec. 11 as part of the seminar, “Social Media for Lawyers: How to Advise Your Client, Enhance Your Practice & Build Your Reputation.” 

It will detail the many ways that social media can impact law firms and will be held at the Macomb County Circuit Court Building, 5th Floor Jury Room, from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Hosted by Brian Wassom, a partner with Honigman Miller Schwartz & Cohn in Detroit, this Macomb County Bar Association sponsored seminar will provide attendees with wide-ranging information on how lawyers can use social media.

Examples include how lawyers can provide legal guidance to clients in managing social media, how it can be used as a firm resource, and the potential marketing benefits.

One of the biggest misconceptions with social media that lawyers often have is that it only targets younger people and that the content is of a frivolous nature, Wassom said.

“There is the potential for important business conversations to happen within this medium so it is a great opportunity,” Wassom said. “I think most lawyers are aware of that but may not be sure how to best use it (to their advantage).”

In fact, not using social media may be a missed opportunity for lawyers, according to Wassom. Lawyers can use social media as a way to promote “thought leadership” and prove a high level of expertise in a specific niche or specialty, Wassom said.

“You can earn a reputation for being very knowledgeable and an expert within a certain area,” he said. “I call it a type of indirect marketing. That can be more useful than a typical marketing effort, which may not have as much of a direct impact.”

From a marketing perspective, lawyers will not want to use social media primarily as a sales tool, Wassom said. There are unwritten rules about using social media as a way to establish and promote relationships without aggressive “selling.”

While LinkedIn is largely for business professionals, it generally requires a longer period of time for business to be discussed online so that a relationship is established.

That differs from an in-person event developed specifically to cater to business networking, such as through a chamber of commerce or local networking group, Wassom said.

But in addition to the unwritten rules, there are actual laws and ethical guidelines that lawyers must follow in general which govern marketing techniques within the legal profession, Wassom said.

Yet, even for lawyers it can actually be easy to forget about these laws that are developed by local, statewide, and national bar associations. 

For example, it is critical for lawyers to be mindful not to type anything untrue or misleading about their firm or personal background online, just as they would not be allowed to misrepresent on a printed document, Wassom indicated.

“You have to remember things such as not offering advice and thus creating an attorney client situation in an inappropriate setting,” Wassom said. “It sounds like simple advice to follow, but can be easily forgotten.”

Social media websites can not only be used to help as part of a long-term business development effort through relationship-building, but also they can be used to gather valuable information as part of a case or for a client.

Online forums can help provide background material for doing research or gaining evidence.

One example in Wassom’s career is that he was able to research the social media website Yelp, which provides consumer reviews of various businesses, Wasson researched Yelp to determine how likely consumers were to be confused by the use of corporate trademarks as part of an intellectual property service for a client.

“Social media is not an ‘either/or’ situation but can be a ‘both/and’ situation,” Wassom said. “It can help you develop your marketing campaign and help you with client work.”

And as social media use has become more prevalent, business and technology lawyers also have become more relied upon by clients to help determine how they can manage the social media actions of their employees.

This is easier for businesses to do at the workplace and on technological equipment that they provide to employees.

However, employee use of social media to discuss work information can still have legal ramifications even if it is done on the employee’s own time.

“Obviously employers have more leeway to regulate employee conduct while at work and using a work PC, but there is a blurring of the lines nowadays of your public and private lives,” Wassom said. “As lawyers, we can help provide guidance to address how clients can best implement social media policies.”

Interested attendees can register for Monday’s seminar online at, or by calling (586) 468-2940. The cost is $25 for non-members and $15 for Macomb County Bar Association members.