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Law firms restricting use of social media demonstrates lack of trust

Boston lawyer and management consultant, Jay Shepherd, joined the discussion on law firms restricting their employees use of social media with a post at the Above the Law yesterday.

In addition to the reasons against restricting the use of social media shared by Arik Hanson and I, Shepherd says restricting use of social media demonstrates lack of trust.

…[F]irms that restrict or censor their lawyers’ computer activities are telling them that they don’t trust these professionals to do their work. Rules like this end up replacing actual management, where partners actually pay attention to whether work gets done well and timely.

Imagine if a firm banned the use of everything that its lawyers could use to chat with family and friends, check movie times, or shop for clothes or airline tickets. In other words, the lawyers couldn’t have freakin’ telephones on their desks. (I flat-out stole this notion from a Golden Practices blog post.)

Small-firm owners: If you trust your younger lawyers to have a telephone, then you also need to trust them with social media. It’s 2011 (pronounced “twenty-eleven”).

It’s not just lawyers in small firms ala Shepherd who think law firms restricting the use of social media by lawyers is a little nuts.

Seattle’s Bruce Johnson, a leading First Amendment Attorney with Davis Wright Tremaine, upon hearing that upwards of 45% of law firms were restricting the use of social media commented on this blog’s Facebook Page, …[T]hat is stunning. It’s like ordering lawyers not to have or use business cards.”

Limiting the use of business cards by your firm’s lawyers would send the same message. “We don’t trust you to go out and be a lawyer yet.”