Speaking on Social Media Panel & a Few Thoughts on Transparency

I’m looking forward to be one of the panelist on Thursday night (July 16) at the Social Media Club of St. Louis’s legal and ethics panel discussion and networking event. It’ll be held at Moulin Events, in the first floor Chouteau Room at 2017 Chouteau Ave, Saint Louis, MO 63103. Sign up for a spot here. It’d be great to meet some readers of this blog in person there.
It’s a stellar panel, moderated by Matt Homann. Other panelists include Rex (@rex7) Gradeless, Dana (@dloesch) Loesch and Eric Kayira. It’s meant to be educational and entertaining and give an introduction to some of the legal and ethical issues we are finding in the era of social media.
I know Matt is busily gathering questions and I’m not quite sure what to prepare for, but I’ll do my best.
As I prepare, I’ve been thinking about the basic notions of openness and transparency in the social media setting.
I had this idea for a simple three-step approach to openness and transparency that I’ll probably offer at the session and that I’ll try out here in advance.
Here’s the concept:
Three Basic Steps:
1. Capacity
2. Required or Recommended Disclosures
3. Practical Impact; Setting Expectations.

The Details.
1. Capacity.
First, identify who you are and in what capacity you are speaking. The will help address the work/personal issue. State clearly that you are speaking in your personal capacity and not in your work capactiy. Also, if you are speaking in your work capacity (after making sure you are permitted to do that), state clearly that you are speaking in that capacity. Clarify capacity in any other case where people might be confused (e.g, if someone thinks that you might be speaking on behalf of someone else). I always spell out that I am speaking in a personal capacity. Interestingly, I’ve given thought lately to spelling out that just because I write a column for the ABA Journal, I am not speaking on behalf of the American Bar Association. Surprisingly, there are occasionally people who seem to think that it’s an official statement of the organization (which it isn’t) rather than a personal opinion column (which it clearly is).
2. Required and Recommended Disclosures. I probably need to come up with a better word for the second category. The idea here is that you might have certain legally-required or otherwise mandated disclosures or disclaimers. Lawyers, for example, will clearly identify that they are not giving legal advice or post other required disclaimers. Others might have similar requirements or even legal requirements. There are often recommended disclosures of facts that your audience would want to know – whether you’ve been paid, received gifts or have financial or other interests or conflicts. This step requires some exercise of judgment and, at least in part, an exercise of putting yourself in the place of your audience to see what you, as an audience member, would want to know to help fairly evaluate what you are presenting.
3. Practical Impact; Setting Expectations. In one sense, this is optional, but, in another, it’s quite a valuable thing to do. Help your audience understand what the practical impact of steps 1 and 2. For example, if I state that I can’t give legal advice, then it’s helpful to tell your audience that you will speak very generally, not answer specific questions based on unique facts or even indicate that it might seem that you are ducking questions. You can also say that although you won’t give specific answers, you’ll try to sketch out the issues to consider and give a framework for addressing the type of question. Others might indicate that they can’t discuss “forward-looking” information or will avoid topics where they have a financial interest. That’s all part of setting realistic expectations and respect your audience.
If you handle these steps sequentially, you can establiish transparenct, set expectations and connect whith your audience quickly when speaking, blogging or doing your profile or making other introductions in social media. It can be quite simple: “I’m a lawyer at XYZ firm, but I’m speaking personally not on behalf of my firm. I’m here to educate, not to give legal advice. As a result, I’ll be teaching general concepts, approaches and ways to analyze legal issues rather than providing specific answers to specific questions. That said, let’s jump into the topic.”
Anyway, that’s the idea I’m toying with. I’d be interested in your reactions.,
Also, Tom Mighell and I will be recording a new episode of our podcast this week. If you have any questions of general interest about legal technology for our audience Q & A segment, let me know.
And, if you are in St. Louis on the 16th, stop on by the Social Media Club panel event and say hello. It’s a great panel and should be fun and educational.
[Originally posted on DennisKennedy.Blog (http://www.denniskennedy.com/blog/)]
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