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In-House Counsel Confront Social Media

On Monday, I chaired a day-long program in New York, Social Media: Risks & Rewards. The program was produced by Corporate Counsel magazine and its publisher, ALM, which is also publisher of this blog. I cannot offer praise enough to this program's organizers and participants. More so than any program I've participated in before, it delved substantively into the nitty-gritty issues that businesses -- and their in-house lawyers -- face in this brave new world.

Of the well-over 100 lawyers who attended, most worked in-house. Of those, most worked in key positions such as general counsel, chief operations officer, chief compliance officer and chief intellectual-property counsel. They came from major corporations and nonprofits representing internationally known brands as diverse as Toys "R" Us, Shell Oil, Walmart, Boy Scouts of America and Major League Baseball.

No matter what industry or sector the attendees and panelists came from, it was clear that they are wrestling with many of the same issues. How do they protect and police their brands in cyberspace? How do they protect their intellectual property. How do their businesses engage and involve themselves in social media? What internal policies should they develop with regard to social media? What guidelines should they set for their employees?

Throughout the day, the conversation and presentations were thoughtful and constructive. But at the end of the day, I found myself thinking less about the participants than about those who did not attend. Clearly, the attendee list at this event represented the leading edge of in-house lawyers in their focus on social media. But how far behind do others trail? My guess is that, at the majority of companies, their in-house legal departments have barely begun, if they've begun at all, to consider these issues, let alone develop strategies to address them.

The title of the program was right on in referring to social media's "risks and rewards." For businesses that fail to consider and address how social media might impact them, the risks are severe. But for businesses that are smart about engaging and adapting to social media, the rewards can be great. The lawyers at Monday's program perceived the potential rewards and were taking action to see that their companies were able to reap them, safely. As for all the lawyers who were not at the program, I hope you're at least paying attention.

Posted by Robert J. Ambrogi on September 23, 2009 at 03:03 PM | Permalink | Comments (2)

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