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Law Practice Magazine

The Leadership Issue

Practice Management Advice: Social Modesty: Turning Down the Noise

John D Bowers


  • Taking cues from corporate America, leaders insisting on routine public commentary may garner more eyes and live to regret such social media posture.
  • Law practices do well to run all potential posts through a consistent content matrix.
  • In the end, law leaders roll no dice when exhibiting external communications restraint.
Practice Management Advice: Social Modesty: Turning Down the Noise

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Once upon a time in the 1990s, web-based platforms began novel opportunities to communicate. Some crudely constructed bulletin boards accepted any content and others sported engaging functionality with images; all were wholly un-proctored. With mounds of extra time on their hands, immediate adopters cycled through sets of credentials for more sophisticated websites named,, LinkedIn and Myspace––the goal seemingly to have a profile on each. Then came Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, TikTok and Thread. And the list continues to grow.

Before long, innocent nonparticipants were invited multiple times to many of these sites to “tweet” and “poke” contacts they knew and many they didn’t. Whole catalogues of text and image data exploded with these virtual communities. Old friends, classmates, colleagues and geographically dispersed relatives caught up and lived together, at least cybernetically.

As dictated by human nature, we slyly found ways to misuse this technology, sometimes harmlessly “ghosting” overly active “friends” and at other times impersonating them. Though I’ve never had a Facebook account, at one time there were three accounts dedicated to the idea that I should have one.

Before losing hours to TikTok or taking a long tumble on Tumblr, we should establish the corporate risks of these sites: 20 years later, unless you invest the time to harness multiple, never-ending filters, the crushing amount of noise makes it impossible for anyone to make sense of the chaos. More to the point, what is the unmoving goal line for law firms in an increasingly post-social society? Considering the very public misadventures of Disney, Bud Light and Target, does a law practice invite more risk than potential corporate benefit by being overly social?

A Little Goes a Long Way

Any adult who has celebrated Thanksgiving with a family that isn’t their own needs no explanation that going deep on religion and politics among mere acquaintances is fraught with inherent social danger. Why then, do we insist on beaming opinions and culling through celebrity flavor-of-the-next-15-minutes vomit by people we barely know and will never meet in person? Humans simply desire belonging. Whether that is among lawyers, neighbors, friends, family, tribes, teams, boards of directors or any other peer group, we are innately social.

However, much like the passing of Myspace, Google+ and Vine, social media as a business tool is endangered by very real mob mentalities that create virtual abuse—not to mention a massive cost both in corporate hours expended creating content and maintaining profiles on every imaginable channel and dollars spent on advertising and search engine optimization (SEO). I enjoy the circular reasoning that, because of so much content, we must improve SEO with more content. As such, leaders of law practices must embrace a less is more approach on all corporate accounts by running each post through a matrix of sorts:

  • Does the topic or announcement support our practice goals? Yes, this assumes that the people who are drafting and posting each missive truly understand the practice’s core strategic vision. Perhaps most importantly, do they grasp the clients’ interests?
  • What are the legal implications? Far be it from me to suggest that those who aggressively edit their clients’ content are ignorant of their own. However, if the law firm comments on (especially sensational) content that the practice may one day have to litigate, is the position taken defensible?
  • Is there a holiday or celebration we won’t ballyhoo on social media? If there isn’t then the practice must hire a gaggle of full-time writers: radio silence on Swedish Independence Day might otherwise raise eyebrows.
  • Is commentary on each piece of breaking news worth the firm’s reputation? We should have learned from COVID to be slow to make public pronouncements, no matter how well intentioned.
  • Is a harmless yet cheeky opinion—especially put forth by a powerful partner—suggested by one employee better suited for posting on that person’s account than the corporate account? It certainly makes law practice topics less sensational, but modesty ought to be celebrated.
  • Does commentary contribute to the common good—loosely defined as “to the benefit of everyone?”

How Much Is Enough?

Beyond a near complete lack of modesty, social media savors almost zero accountability and ensures safety in relative anonymity for bad actors. Don’t think anonymity is a massive part of social media? Elon Musk and his rebranded Twitter would beg to differ: How many stalker accounts have you created on various media? Leaders can’t go wrong by merely dipping a toe in the social media waters occasionally and adopting disciplined communications.

A revered and highly successful litigator I coached once claimed that his “clients don’t ever want to see [his] name in the news.” Social media mavens must hate that guy. Very few businesses earn a black eye by not commenting on political, social and religious topics. After all, it may lack glamour for a firm to announce the start of new employees, attorney rankings and client events than suggesting the proper course for dealing with Putin or whether the Dodgers will win the World Series. If a law practice can’t confidently thread the needle through that matrix, it may be best to leave well enough alone.