Friday, 8 March 2013

Northern Ireland Law Society Talks Social Media

Compared to the Law Society in England and Wales and the one in Scotland, Northern Ireland's solicitor regulatory body has been pretty quiet on the matter and question of social media.

However it hasn't gone without mention and it appears that the Law Society in Northern Ireland is at least open to the idea of solicitors and law firms in Northern Ireland using and getting to grips with social media. How do I know this. Well because of an advertisement I found on Google that referred to a social media seminar for law firms to be hosted by the NI Law Society in June 2012.

The June 11 event was advertised here, and was hosted by the Law Society's Communication Officer, Paul O'Connor and Tim McKane of Belfast digital media agency, Novajo Talk.

Prior to stumbling upon this I'd known of three big things on the matter:

Firstly, in December 2011, the Law Society of England and Wales published guidance on how law firms can best use social media. You can read that here.

Secondly, six months later in June 2012 the Law Society of Scotland produced a policy document which outlined social media advice and information for the legal profession. You can read that here.

Thirdly, on March 7 2013 the Law Society of England and Wales produced a practice note for law firms guiding them on how to protect their online reputation. You can read that here and also analysis from Charles Christian here.

Having known of these three publications I'd drawn a false conclusion: I had thought for some time that Northern Ireland law was simply a cold house to forms of new media (I did have a look at how Northern Ireland law firms are doing with Twitter in an earlier blog - though my findings here weren't so impressive).

Here's how the event was touted on the advertisement:
'In the current market place, as businesses start to investigate how tofind new ways of attracting clients, it is becoming more important that theyare able to communicate in a variety of ways, including online - throughwebsites and social media avenues. In this new market place it is clear thatmany clients, when looking for services and products, initially logn and searchthe web to find those services. Irrespective of the size of your practice, itmay be advantageous that you have a presence online in the social medianetworks and that your potential clients are easily able to find you there.'
Having read this it would be fair to say that Northern Ireland Law Society does see value in social media as a marketing and communications platform for  the modern law practice. Though, the important thing to say is this - and I'm repeating myself, but it's important: the NI Law Society has yet to endorse or officially recognise new media.

It's important to note that a large part of the seminar was be made up of looking at the guidance provided by the Law Society in England and Wales. No big surprise there though - Northern Ireland lawyers and law makers have always had a habit of doing that. They're doing the same with the social media prosecution guidelines produced by Keir Starmer QC for England and Wales too of course.

However it's fair to say that it would be nice to see Northern Ireland take the lead in some matters and stop simply taking hints and recycling policy produced by the governing body in GB.

It's also important to note that this was a one off briefing event. I've seen no evidence of the Law Society formally endorsing the guidance produced across the water.

So going forward, law practice in Northern Ireland needs one of two things:

1. An official endorsement of the social media guidance documents produced by the Law Society of England and Wales.

or

2. The creation of bespoke guidance made by and for the Northern Ireland Law Society and its membership.

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