When Social Media Hits Your Wallet

I just read an interesting post by Omar-Ha-Redeye at Slaw on how social media usage might result in an increase in insurance’ premiums to reflect an increased risk of loss (link here). The article actually discussed homeowners’ premiums and privacy and location-based services. These topics have been the subject of heavy discussion over the past two weeks, spurred at least in part by the brouhaha from Google’s launch of Buzz with insufficient privacy controls and the articles surrounding the website Please Rob Me. Personally, I think Please Rob Me is about ten times more irresponsible than the original location posters – it opens up location data to anyone and everyone in a clearinghouse-style, hyper-organized fashion not available to the potential robber who randomly peruses Twitter, Foursquare or any of the other location-based services that first require a friend or follow connection. Furthermore, I doubt that the persons engaging in this activity are learning the lesson this site is “purporting” to teach. But enough about that.

The title of Omar’s post sent my thoughts in a different direction – lawyers using social media who might experience an increase in legal malpractice fees. I am not suggesting that this is currently the case – I don’t have the data to back it up. But there certainly have been news stories over the past year outlining the different ways that lawyers can get themselves in trouble in and out of court based on their own on-line activities.

Engaging in social media in general, and for lawyers in particular, requires common sense. The same common sense that people and professionals should employ in the off-line world. Internet trouble may result from the incorrect perception that only those you are interested in targeting with your efforts will see your efforts. In reality, the digital trail is wide and clear for anyone interested enough to follow.

That said, if you only publish content that is valuable and well-thought out, there should be little problem with the law. On the other hand, you cannot control the perceptions of the other side in a dispute. So, how do you engage and protect at the same time? Carefully read your malpractice policy to ensure that on-line activity is not excluded. If it is excluded, then consider contacting your carrier / agent to discuss adding such coverage. There are specific insurance policies now being offered that cover blogging activity. It is worth it to take some time with your coverage and make sure it protects against the risks you want it to protect against.

Above all, if you are on-line in a professional capacity, keep it professional! If your activity doesn’t pass the “smell” test, well, then ….

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