Social Media and Your Professional License

July 22, 2022
The Law Firm of J.W. Stafford

Man on social media on laptop

Social media can help you build your reputation, attract clients, maintain relationships, and build your credentials. For these reasons, having a presence on social media is a necessary piece of many licensed professionals’ business strategies. Unfortunately, social media does pose numerous hazards, many of which can result in disciplinary action being taken against you by your licensing board. Everything you do on the internet can be documented, and a momentary lapse in judgment can quickly go viral. 

If you are wondering about how to navigate some of these issues or are already facing potential sanctions, a lawyer with experience in defending professional licenses can help. 

The Hazards of Social Media Can Arise Unexpectedly

Social media includes more than just apps such as Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, or TikTok. Social media can also include the following: 

  • Your blog
  • Commenting on Reddit
  • LinkedIn
  • Commenting on industry-specific message boards
  • Email groups

Furthermore, what may be a comment made out of boredom or in jest can be misinterpreted, taken out of context, or simply draw unwanted attention to you. As a licensed professional, you need to be extremely careful anytime that you post something online, even if you aren’t posting in your professional capacity. 

How Social Media Can Trigger Disciplinary Action

Generally speaking, licensing boards are tasked with protecting the reputation of their profession. As a result, they will take action any time that a member of their professional breaches their ethical duties or behaves inappropriately. Here are some of the ways that social media can lead to disciplinary action: 

  • Lawyers must be careful not to disclose any information that would breach attorney-client confidentiality. They must also be careful that anything they say online does not constitute legal advice. They should also be careful not to misrepresent their competence and be mindful of any prohibitions concerning solicitation. Lastly, lawyers should be careful that they are not creating an attorney-client relationship when interacting with people online. 
  • Physicians, nurses, and other medical professionals must also be very careful when it comes to patient confidentiality. A careless comment could arguably constitute a HIPAA violation. 
  • All licensed professionals should be aware that any online behavior that could be considered harassment or stalking could trigger disciplinary proceedings. 
  • Racist, sexist, or other discriminatory language could also trigger disciplinary proceedings. 

One of the downfalls of social media is that it serves as a record of everything you say or do online. While avoiding social media entirely may be unrealistic, you need to be aware that anything you post online may be used against you. If you have questions about how to avoid the pitfalls of social media or are already facing a complaint over something you said or did online, the best thing you can do is contact a lawyer. 

Making a Bad Situation Worse

If you are already facing an investigation or sanctions as a result of disciplinary action, it is best to make no mention of it on social media. This would include the following: 

  • Posting comments about the underlying case or client who filed the complaint
  • Mocking or disparaging the disciplinary board
  • Telling “your side of the story” regarding the complaint
  • Making any comments that could be considered retaliatory
  • Detailing the arguments and evidence you intend to include in your defense

A careless comment or vague post could lead to additional disciplinary action on top of the complaint you are already facing. 

Some people may be tempted to post something along the lines of “I dispute the allegations contained in the complaint and intend to aggressively defend myself,” but you have to be disciplined about not responding to subsequent comments and questions that could stray into dangerous territory. In fact, you may be calling attention to something that most clients wouldn’t be aware of in the first place. 

If you are worried about potential damage to your reputation and feel the need to address the complaint, the best thing to do is contact an attorney who has experience in handling professional license defense cases. They can help you craft a statement that you can use if necessary and provide guidance in responding to subsequent questions and comments. 

Questions About Social Media and Your Professional License? Contact a Lawyer Today

Even if the issue is unrelated to your professional life, what you say or do on the internet can carry professional consequences. Don’t wait until it’s too late – contact The Law Firm of J.W. Stafford today. We can review your issue and help you find a solution that works for you. Give us a call at 410-514-6099 to schedule an appointment.