Should your firm have a Facebook fan page? --Yes, but check state ethics rules

By Correy Stephenson

The Daily Record Newswire

Earlier this year, Facebook became the most visited website in the United States, edging out Google.

With over 400 million members, law firms should consider joining the party by creating a Facebook fan page, said Jordan Furlong, senior consultant at Stem Legal, a web marketing company for lawyers based in British Columbia, Canada, and publisher of Law 21, a blog about the practice of law.

A fan page is a way for a business to provide information about itself at no cost by joining the site and creating the page.

Other Facebook users become "fans" who automatically receive updates about the firm in their news feed like they do from their other friends.

"What I like most about a Facebook fan page," said Furlong, "is that it lets you show a different side of the law firm that people wouldn't get to see - it allows you to show other dimensions and facets of your firm.

"It is a great communications and marketing vehicle without trying to be," he added.

Some firms with a fan page update it strictly with firm news - a press release or a new hire announcement - which is fine on occasion, Furlong said.

But he advised firms to make use of all the possibilities of the website, including creating photo albums of the staff, launching a poll on a current-affairs issue or posing a question for fans to answer.

"Provide a link to an interesting or important news story that is relevant to the firm's practice, or post a short story with five tips on how to work out pick-up and drop-off times with an ex-spouse if you run a family law practice," Furlong suggested.

He also said firms could use the fan page as more than just an information source by providing rewards or exclusive offers that fans wouldn't be able to find elsewhere, such as a free half hour of consultation, free parking in the building where the firm is located or even an exclusive article.

Furlong emphasized that just like with a blog or Twitter feed, however, a firm should remember that operating a Facebook fan page requires time and effort.

If a potential hire or client looks up the firm on Facebook and finds a dusty and deserted fan page, "that doesn't reflect well on the firm," he noted.

"You must be ready to devote a certain amount of time, energy and thought," Furlong counseled.

Updating a fan page two to three times a week "is respectable," he said.

Lawyers should also be cautious of potential ethical issues.

While a state ethics opinion has yet to be issued on Facebook fan pages, they can most closely be analogized to blogs, which many states consider to be a form of legal advertising.

"Take a close look [at your state ethics rules] and use good judgment," Furlong advised.

Published: Thu, Jun 3, 2010