Talking to Boston lawyers and legal marketing professionals this week, I warned that carte blanche banning of blogging and other social networking for lawyers is fraught with peril. Such bans may be will intended, but can cause serious image problems for the firm.

How does a law firm tout innovativeness on the front page of their website with such bans? How does a law firm recruit and retain lawyers who see competitors using blogs to enhance their reputation and grow business? How can you recruit summer associates and recent law grads when banning social networking tools that are as natural to recruits as the use of a phone?

How long does a large law firm expect word to get around on their bans? It takes about 30 minutes for an email or news about such policies to reach David Lat at Above the Law, the most widely read online legal publication, especially for the vast majority of law students and lawyers under 40. Get your ban policy published on Above The Law and you’re being laughed at by tens of thousands of folks.

Then this morning I see from Carolyn Elefant that a recent study commissioned by an Australian law firm found if companies deny access to Facebook, they may find themselves unable to recruit younger employees, who view a Facebook ban as a ‘betrayal of trust.’ 

The study, which surveyed 700 people by phone, found that almost half of those who used social networking sites at work would choose an employer with permissible policies over one who blocked access.  While only 14 percent of employees surveyed said they used the Internet at work, not surprisingly, usage was higher among younger respondents, with a third of 16- to 24-year olds and a quarter of 25- to 34-year olds logging into Facebook sometime during the work day.  The study results suggest that companies attempting to recruit younger workers may have to reconsider their Internet policies in order to compete, suggested Nick Abrahams of Deacons, the Australian firm that commissioned the study.

Carolyn went on to warn, ‘A Facebook ban might minimize a company’s potential legal liability — but it doesn’t necessarily serve a company’s business interests since it could hamper efforts to recruit younger employees and reduce workplace morale.’