Here to Stay: Balancing Social Media with Your Legal Career
Bloomberg’s latest article discusses the pitfalls of Biglaw attorneys on TikTok. It discusses how slow firms are to respond and how conflicted they are with associates being active on social media. I’ve been seeing more and more legal content on TikTok and when a recent Cravath associate opted to resign then to stop creating content (content that seems to be very lucrative), I couldn’t help but notice how far we’ve come! fyi, Cravath is the most white shoe of white shoe firms–if any firm is going to have a conservative stance on social media it’s going to be these type of firms.
In 2015, I wrote a social media dos and don’ts post that mostly focused on staying hidden lol because god forbid a hiring partner see you out having a life. Since that time, so much has changed, including an increase of legal content creators. Since I’ve been in this game for a minute, I wanted to share some thoughts to protect your career while not eschewing social media all together.
See, I remember when Facebook and other platforms came out and how everyone freaked out about it. What would mean to professional standards?! TikTok isn’t new, but it’s more public, more popular, and current target of concern. What you have to keep in mind is that the people in positions of power are likely older, more conservative (small c), and less inclined to believe in work/life balance. They will be more concerned with conflicts of interest (perceived or real), impact to their firm’s reputation (rightly or wrongly), and maybe even be dismissive of social media as a whole because they don’t understand the power of this medium.
So what can you do to not be a robot but keep your job secure?
One. Be Sure of the Rules. This is true if you’re sharing any work related content, but especially true if you’re monetizing any of your content. You need to check backwards and forwards before saying yes to any campaign. If there’s no clear cut rule, then ask. It’s better to be told no, you can’t or yes, but with parameters then getting tattled on by someone (like what happened with the Cravath associate) and end up having to deal with a larger disciplinary issue. And that may seem like overkill, but hello, have you met an attorney? People are petty. People want to put others in their place. Don’t give them ammunition. At one job, I had to stop writing my column on Remezcla but had permission to still sell my merchandise. I’m glad I had confirmation because it gave me peace of mind and I wasn’t risking anything. At another employer, to even write for Remezcla, it had to go through the ethics committee and GC before getting the green light.
Two. Keep it Off Hours. I’m a big believer in later grams, record/take photos, but wait until you’re home before posting. And try to only capture things on your breaks anyway. I mean imagine a client seeing you creating some long video that looks like it’s happening during the day they kept trying to reach you? Obviously some things may come up that you want to capture–a fun lunch, a company outing, your first time in court, but again think of ways to capture it so it’s not in the middle of the work day.
Three. Confidentiality is Key. This goes without saying, but imma say it–NO information about your clients, ever. But also be careful that you’re not accidentally sharing info that’s proprietary, or just images of colleagues who may not want to be online. Many states are actually two-party consent to record, so if you’re recording people in private settings that could be an issue. I mean, will someone press charges? Prob not, but why risk negatively impacting a relationship with a colleague who suddenly finds themselves in a viral video. I like to keep it solo, just me, myself, and I. If I take a pic with a colleague in a private setting, I’ll ask if I can share just to be safe.
Can you tell I’m risk averse when it comes to online content? That is because I’m once-bitten, twice shy. Because I’ve always been an “early adopter,” I had too many incidents where people in positions of authority questioned content (and my intent) and it’s just something to avoid. Because the reality is that many of those making decisions about career advancement don’t get it. Even now when I mention that I blog, I see the quizzical looks because people don’t understand that “blogging” and cultivating a large online community, means so much more than it did in the early 2000s. So unless you plan to make content creation your full-time job (which is possible), then your hobby needs to take a backseat to your legal career.
When will things progress? With how fast TikTok is moving, I wouldn’t be surprised if we see more and more social media policies, but they will be limiting people’s actions rather than finding a balancing of what can be shared. When will there be a better understanding of social media without fear of it negatively impacting a firm’s reputation? Um, well the first Gen-Z lawyer won’t make partner for probably another seven to ten years…
But seriously, if you’re just creating content for fun, then be cautious about what work related content you include and you should be fine! The rules will eventually catch up with reality, but in the meantime there’s no need for you to be the example of what happens when someone missteps online. So go have fun and make sure you follow me on all social media platforms!