Lawyers Can Demonstrate the Need for Social-Media Policies In More Ways than One

Many employment lawyers advise their clients to adopt an effective social-media policy. But there are other lawyers who have demonstrated the need for such policies not by advising clients but by example. When lawyers cause problems for their employers by the lawyer’s use of social media, their employers get a far clearer understanding of the need for social-media policies. A recent example comes from the international law firm, Akin Gump, and one of its partners, Paul Mirengoff.

In his off-duty capacity, Mr. Mirengoff posted on a conservative blog called Power Line. The post at issue discussed the good, the bad, and the ugly of President Obama’s speech following the recent Arizona shootings. Among the “bad” that Mirengoff discussed was a Native American prayer recited before President Obama gave his remarks. Mirengoff complained that the prayer included many references to the Creator, but none to God. He then opined that a Christian prayer should have been read, because many of the victims were devout Christians.

Mr. Mirengoff’s post was not well received by his employer, which has a well-developed practice in the area of Native American law. The firm’s managing partner issued a statement distancing the firm from the post, and noting that the firm has no affiliation with the blog itself. The firm is also reported to have requested that the post be removed, which it was. (The post can be accessed on the ABA Journal’s website here). That statement was included within a larger statement by James Maggesto, another partner at Akin Gump, who is of Native American descent and who practices in the firm’s American Indian Law and Policy section.

The ABA Journal reports that the firm is currently reviewing its social-media policy.

This case is a helpful reminder that every business should have a strong social media policy in place. Even the best-informed employees can make mistakes. And those mistakes can do serious harm to a business’s bottom line.

Update {Jan. 31, 2011}: Mr. Mirengoff is reported to have given up his blogging efforts, at least for now.

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