The reputation of a lawyer on the internet is paramount
At a time of exponential development of new technologies and the Internet, it is important to consider the role of the lawyer in the digital world. Today, is it necessary to have a website and accounts on social networks (such as Twitter) to exist and develop its activities? How to use these new tools effectively?
The lawyer profession he has to adapt to new media development to be competitive? Internet also having its shortcomings, the question is how to protect its reputation against a very rapid dissemination of information on the Web.
This article presents and succinctly these communication modes that can prove to be a real asset in the growth a law firm or a lawyer practicing individually (1). However, in the development of their business through digital tools, the lawyers will have to adopt the necessary measures to protect their reputations and respond appropriately in the event of damage to their reputations (2). 1.
Internet: essential tool to improve visibility?
Internet has become a very useful tool for lawyers practicing individually or in a firm to enhance their image and improve their visibility to their customers, prospects and even colleagues. Some lawyers have a website but also using social networks like Viadeo, LinkedIn, or recently social networks dedicated to the legal profession to promote themselves, expand their network, grow their customer base or build relationships closer in their professional relationships. a.
Creating a website: Firm showcase
Many law firms now have a website, showcase to enhance their image and promote their professional activities. The websites generally have the following headings: statement of the firm, team dynamic presentation of lawyers (skills and professional curriculum) expertise / areas of expertise, legal news / publications and touch. When visiting the website of a firm lawyers, a client must be able to obtain the information it needs and ensure that the firm has the human and technical capacity to respond clearly and effectively to their needs.
The image of the firm must be clear, understandable and recognizable hence the use of an ergonomic graphics allowing the firm to benefit from a real visual identity. In the absence of such identity and ease Use a website can quickly become a liability for a lawyer’s office, contrary to its first promotional purposes. Indeed, a poorly made website can tarnish the image of a law firm. It is therefore very important to have the means to create a website (ergonomics, features, tree, structure, graphics …) for a real valuation of the firm. In addition, it is increasingly recognized that the requirement of customers to their lawyers goes beyond the technical expertise, professionalism and internationalization.
As a reminder, Article 131 of Decree No. 91-1197 dated November 27, 1991 which states that “advertising is permitted counsel to the extent that it provides the public with necessary information. The means which it is resorted to this are implemented with discretion, so as not to undermine the dignity of the profession and communicated to the Bar Council. “In parallel with the creation of a website, some firms and / or lawyers use the Internet to promote their activities through social networks and blogs. b.
Social networking / blogs: enhancing visibility
lawyers have increasingly likely to use professional social networks and the blogs to enhance their visibility. Many lawyers are members of professional and social networks such as LinkedIn or Viadeo. Some firms even have Facebook pages and Twitter accounts. These networks, are becoming increasingly important and are a useful channel to improve its visibility and expand your professional network. It seems, however, that law firms are still cautious on these social networks and do not even limited use. Many lawyers have created profiles on these social networks without yet being proactive.
However, a partial and limited use of social networks by lawyers could also tarnish their reputation with customers and prospects that could tend to be seduced by other lawyers / law firms with more dynamic profiles. It is thus very important for a law firm / lawyer to regularly update its profile when it (s) decide (s) to join a social network. The lawyers also benefit from social networks dedicated Vox-like or Hubavocats Lawyers.
These social networks are reserved for lawyers and allow contact between colleagues. These networks also offer dedicated services very useful in the practice of professional activities: job advertisements, application postulation / representation, request for assistance, exchanges with colleagues on points of law and procedure, hotlines / GAV, documentation , writing articles on legal matters … These social networks are good tools to bring together lawyers from different bar associations and improving mutual assistance between colleagues. The use of professional and social networks social networks dedicated to their profession and shows Ascending lawyers want to use the networks as a springboard to develop their professional activities and benefit from a network with colleagues. In addition, many lawyers have also created personal blogs or shared with several colleagues.
These blogs are exchanges between lawyers and Internet spaces for dialogue on topical issues, specific legal issues or providing practical guidance to users. These exchanges are promoting an image of lawyers nearest Citizens , sharing their worries and concerns. For these exchanges, lawyers are also known on the Internet by the word of mouth of users, improving their visibility. Nevertheless, it is useful to remember that users can use blogs as spaces where they can express themselves freely.
It is thus important for attorneys to properly control the customer reviews to ensure compliance with the law and avoid their responsibility may be engaged. Therefore, the Internet and the social networks and blogs can s’ prove to be real assets for law firms / lawyers individually to promote their image and improve their visibility. However, while being a vector with high added value, the Internet also has its shortcomings and presents risks including the safeguarding of its reputation on the Internet, the “e-reputation”. 2.
Internet and reputational “e-reputation”
The Internet and the various communication modes allow extremely rapid dissemination of information, as this information is positive or negative, especially in the absence of a genuine right to be forgotten, unfortunately, the damage may extend in time and the disputed information can highlight several years after the facts the origin of the damage to reputation. Currently, companies have realized the need to protect their reputation and adopt more measures to limit the risks of achievement and promote their reputation on the Internet “e-reputation” . Like companies, lawyers must be aware of these risks. A.
Risk of damage to its reputation on the Internet
Very recently, following certain events reported by the media, television, radio and especially the Internet, many French and foreign multinational companies have faced very virulent attacks on the Internet have seriously damaged their reputation. During these events, some companies have established a very effective communication strategy to stem the damage to their reputations on their website (eg creation of a dedicated window on the website with shortcut on the Facebook page company) and on social networks (Facebook, Twitter), responding to infringements by users.
These companies want to face criticism and respond constructively explaining the origins of difficulties / damage encountered and the solutions implemented to eradicate and prevent them extend in time or recurring. The companies have adopted a more opaque position were strongly criticized on the canvas. Internet users want, in fact, a true dialogue be established with these companies when they face these crises.
To improve their image and react appropriately and proactively in a crisis, companies increasingly equip “community managers” responsible for disseminating information and positive content through various Internet communication channels (social networks, blogs, forums …) they have. These community managers are established on these different platforms and have a very good knowledge of their functioning and their rules.
Some law firms have a dedicated department or rely on outside companies for communication and promotion of cabinet. As part of their duties, these actors could, in case of damage to the reputation of a firm to react efficiently and become the privileged interlocutors of users on the web. An internet business reputation is, therefore fragile, it can be done very quickly and then discard. The lawyers are not immune to bad advertising. Any person, natural or SME / multinational, may be comments / articles / very negative criticisms seriously undermine his professional reputation. It is thus very important for lawyers to be aware of these risks and adopt appropriate measures upstream and downstream to protect their reputation and avoid a loss of customer confidence towards them. B.
Possible solutions to protect its reputation Internet
It is possible for a law firm to use the legal arsenal that is at its disposal to defend its rights and to end the infringement of any damage to its reputation. A firm may also establish internal procedures to reduce the risk of damage to its reputation. In case of damage to its reputation, a law firm has several legal grounds to stop it.
On the basis of the Act on Confidence in the Digital Economy (“LCEN”) dated June 21, 2004, in case of damage to its reputation, it is possible to exercise its right of reply or contact the editor the website to ask the removal of the disputed content (website publisher is responsible for the editorial content of the site). In the absence of response on the part of the site editor, it is also possible to ask the host of the website to delete the content (s) manifestly illegal (s). The notification must respect certain formalism and contain the information provided for in Article 6.I.5 ° LCEN to be enforceable against the host.
If the damage can be classified as an insult or defamation, it is possible to act on the basis of the Act of 1881 on freedom of the press. For the record, the limitation period for this action is very short on the Internet, it is three months from its first posting. Further actions are still possible on the basis of the violation of privacy (Articles 226-1 and 226-2 of the Criminal Code), violation of image rights (Article 9 of the Civil Code) or since the LOPPSI Act II in case of usurpation of digital identity (Article L. 226-4- 1 of the Penal Code).
It is finally possible to initiate tort of the perpetrator and thus seek payment of damages. In addition, a law firm may also establish internal procedures to protect its reputation particular order avoid damage from its staff, voluntary or involuntary, for lack of information.
It is possible to adopt a charter or IT best practices guide whose function is to inform the staff of their obligations regarding the protection of personal information and data, security information system, use IT tools (computers, mobile phones, tablet computers, USB sticks, CDs, DVDs), good use of the Internet or the corporate email available to them.
It is also important to recall that the staff is bound by an obligation of discretion and confidentiality in and outside the workplace. Considering the recent case law concerning cyber, including decisions on enforcement of employees who disparaged their employer on social networks or blogs, the implementation of such measures is a good way for a law to limit the damage to its reputation and demonstrate teaching with regard to its staff.
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