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Social media lessons from MSBA

As I mentioned in my earlier blog post from the MSBA Annual Meeting, I attended two social media CLEs at this year’s MSBA Annual Meeting: one sponsored by the Litigation and Technology Sections; the other sponsored by the Labor & Employment Law Section.

I was curious how the two would compare to one another and how they would compare to the ABA Labor & Employment Law Technology Committee Symposium that I attended in April.  While the CLEs provided interesting information and contrasts, I found the contrast in use of social media during the sessions to be even more fascinating.

The two MSBA CLEs I attended provided useful, Maryland-specific content and had some similarities. Both emphasized the importance avoiding any subversive activities or attempts to circumvent the privacy settings social media users have put in place. Both stressed the authenticity concerns associated with social media; it is far too easy to find social media content that is false or misleading. And, both agreed, for different reasons, that social media is something that cannot be ignored.

The litigation CLE, naturally, focused on how social media can be used in the litigation context, specifically in trial. While I have attended a number of other CLEs on this topic, this particular CLE was unique in its focus on Maryland law. For example, I found the section on authentication particularly enlightening, as the panel highlighted the differences between the federal and Maryland state courts’ approaches to authentication of social media.

The labor and employment CLE generally focused on social media at earlier stages of the legal process and addressed a broad range of developing law in Maryland and before the National Labor Relations Board. Panelists addressed concerns a business or law firm might face in deciding how to address social media, their own use of social media or their employees’ use of social media.

Importantly, panelists encouraged all businesses to have a social media policy tailored to its own unique set of circumstances. In using social media, the panel cautioned, businesses need to take care not to adopt policies or enforce policies in a way that would prohibit employees from discussing the terms or conditions of their employment, which would violate the National Labor Relations Act or employees’ privacy rights without proper notice.

At the same time, these policies should prohibit employees from defaming or harassing the company or other employees, prohibit employees from disclosing confidential company information of any kind via social media, disclaim the company from any posts made by the employee and prohibit an employee from referencing the employer in social media, except as otherwise permitted by the employer.

But perhaps even more interesting was the use of social media during these CLEs and during the Annual Meeting as a whole.  The Daily Record’s Danny Jacobs and Danielle Ulman helpfully blogged that they would be tweeting during the Conference using the #msbaconf hashtag.  And they did, as did I and a few others during the course of the conference.

The Litigation CLE announced at the beginning of the program that attendees could post questions or comments to hashtag #socmed101.  While only a few people tweeted during the CLE, presenters followed up by tweet to provide additional materials.  Others tweeted more generally, without using the hashtag.  Mostly, though, the MSBA meeting-related Twitter feed was used as more of an electronic bulletin board than as a forum for discussion.

I look forward to seeing how Twitter evolves as a professional tool including as a forum for discussion at CLEs and maintaining connections with other attendees after the program.  But what do you think?  Have you ever used Twitter during CLEs?  If so, do you think it enhanced or distracted from the overall value of the program?