Most law firms, like most businesses, are seeing an increase in employee or former employee social media attacks and cyber breaches designed to gather sensitive client information that can be manipulated. This becomes information for insider trading or even information a cyber thief might use to blackmail a law firm or clients … a so-called ransomware attack.
Many legal industry and law enforcement crisis managers say it is not a matter of if a law firm will have cyber or social media trouble, it is a matter of when the trouble will happen and how it will manifest.
- It is always much harder to protect the firm when an attack is in progress; it is always wiser to have a crisis plan in place, when there is more time for thoughtful preparation.
- Hire a professional and get your social media and cyber breach crisis plan in place right now.
- Create crisis scenarios and figure out how they will be handled and by whom.
- Create a social media section for your firm’s handbook and outline what is permitted and what isn’t, what may be legal and illegal about any online criticism of the firm.
- Consider the creation of signed employee non-disparagment agreements, obviously making sure no free speech or employment or labor laws are abridged.
- Speaking specifically to a social media assault by a former or even current employee, a law firm must be conversant with NRLA- related laws and regulations and First Amendment rights.
- It is very important to encourage a culture of civility at your firm. Encourage a staff open-door environment where disagreements can be worked out before there is a social media explosion of accusations.
- If the firm is attacked online, resist the urge to immediately retaliate, especially with language that could be used against you in court and, maybe worse, escalates the war.
- Monitor or hire a professional to monitor all online conversations about the firm and, if warranted, respond with a high road kind of rhetoric.
- Caution staff not to talk to media on or off the record and establish a firm spokesperson.
- Stay on message, allude to the good things your firm does that will offset accusations.
- Use your web site as a base for your response or even create a separate web site as a platform for response and build a bank of testimonials that can offset accusations and accusers.
Try to identify and reach the attacker and negotiate a settlement or a civil outcome, offline.
As early as possible, personally reach out to key clients and provide assuring language but refrain yourself from attacking the attacker. Remember there is no conversation with anyone that is really off the record. Your confidences can be betrayed more than once and the last thing you want to do is to provide more fuel for another aspect of an online fire, which the media will keep stoking.
And always remember that your business reputation is the goal. Public tit-for-tat fights and even libel suits can lead to small victories and maybe some vindication but a continued and heightened criticism of your firm can mean a crisis escalating to a business-ending disaster.
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