This post is authored by Cathy Trent-Vilim, a partner in LDM’s litigation department.
The use of social media has become so prevalent that oftentimes users do not think through the consequences of their posts. In some instances, a social media misstep can be the beginning of the end of a promising career.
Take for instance Anya Cintron Stern, 31, a Miami-Dade public defender. She was defending her client, Fermin Recalde, who had been charged with murder in connection with the stabbing death of his girlfriend. During his trial, Recalde’s family brought him some clothes to wear during trial, including a pair of leopard-print underwear. Apparently amused by the family’s selection, Cintron Stern took a photo of the underwear while they were being quickly held up and inspected by a corrections officer. She then posted the photo on her personal Facebook page, along with a caption about “proper attire for trial.” Someone saw the post and notified the trial judge, who declared a mistrial. Cintron Stern was immediately fired.
Even more problematic than the underwear photo was Cintron Stern’s prior, albeit less publicized, Facebook posting that seemingly called her client’s innocence into question. So much for zealous advocacy.
Those of you reading this post are likely saying to yourself, “Duh. I would never do something like that.” Yet, in the day and age of Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Pinterest, and any number of other social media outlets, it is sometimes difficult to keep the lines between our personal and professional lives from becoming blurred. In those instances, a post that was intended to be “personal” and “amongst friends” can detrimentally impact our work lives.
Of course, this does not mean that you are prohibited from using social media in a professional capacity. To the contrary, many firms have created their own Facebook pages for marketing purposes. However, if you are going to use social media, use it properly. Keep your personal Facebook posts about your personal life and make sure your work-related posts are professional.
Above all else, remember that whatever you post will be preserved for posterity and will follow you wherever you go.