Tresa Baldas authored a terrific article titled ‘Companies say no to friending or tweeting at work’ published by Law.com on October 7, 2009.
Baldas points to studies that show a large portion of Corporate America is banning the use of social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook in the workplace.
This ban has been slowly gaining ground and it’s no surprise. How can anyone get any work done if they’re constantly checking their Facebook profile or Tweeting about their lunch? Is there really time to play Mafia Wars or write a blog post? Probably not.
As Baldas points out:
According to the latest survey of more than 1,400 U.S. companies, more than half (54%) said they prohibit employees from visiting sites such as Twitter, Facebook and MySpace while on the clock. The survey, released on Oct. 6 by Robert Half Technology, a provider of information technology staffing services, was based on telephone interviews with U.S. companies of 100 or more employees.
Another recent survey delivered even graver news for the social media world. According to an August survey by ScanSafe, a Web security provider, 76% of companies are now choosing to block employees’ use of social networking — up 20% from February — which is now a more popular category of sites to block than those involving shopping, weapons, sports or alcohol.
According to Baldas, law firms have also joined in the trend. Indianapolis-based Barnes & Thornburg has blocked all access to Facebook but still allows access to Twitter. Gunster Yoakley & Stewart of West Palm Beach, Fla., blocks Facebook and Twitter for its entire support staff, including secretaries and legal assistants, but lets lawyers use the social media tools.
These bans have merit. Access to the social media sites leads to reduced productivity, possibile data theft, liability risk, and threats to an entity’s image.
There’s one important issue here that’s not mentioned in the article written by Ms. Baldas:
The social media sites firms are banning have become invaluable tools for researching and vetting. If paralegals do not have access to the sites, they will be unable to check the credentials of expert witnesses or jurors or clients. If only lawyers are allowed to use the social media tools, the firm is missing an important piece in the utilization of paralegals. This one area where paralegals can take on a huge amount of work, thus freeing the attorney to do other more substantive work. The is the true purpose of the employment of paralegals.
The answer? All or nothing just will not work. Every law firm should put a policy in place that clearly states how the social networking sites are to be utilized and the policy must be enforced. Employees should not use social media as a means of play until they are off their employer’s clock and on their own time and dime. However, access to social media sites should be allowed in the work place for legitimate purposes.