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VOL. 125 | NO. 244 | Thursday, December 16, 2010

Hill’s Law Practice Transformed by Social Media

RICHARD J. ALLEY | Special to The Daily News

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As a student at the University of Memphis’ Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law in the mid-1970s, Charlie Hill never suspected the word “tweet” would become part of his lexicon.

Charlie Hill of Glankler Brown PLLC, pictured here in the firm’s new, still-under-construction East Memphis office, has found an important niche for his law practice. The longtime attorney advises companies on how to best use social media – Facebook, Twitter, blogs – without compromising company secrets, policies or marketing plans. (Photo: Lance Murphey)

But as social media usage broadens and reaches from the individual to the corporate, it is becoming increasingly important for those corporations to understand how posts to Facebook, blog entries or the seemingly innocuous tweet – a 140-word message posted to Twitter – might compromise company secrets, policies or marketing plans.

“This whole area of what is and what isn’t private in social media is evolving daily, so there are no hard and fast lines and you can’t apply a traditional analysis of what’s private conduct versus public conduct,” said the 58-year-old Hill.

As part of his employment law practice with Glankler Brown PLLC, Hill provides advice and training to businesses on the legal aspects of social media and whether to include social media policies within their company policies.

“Courts are starting to try to draw a line between protecting an individual’s right to privacy versus what’s public communication,” he said.

If you have recently e-mailed, tweeted, blogged or written on someone’s “wall” – and chances are you have – then you know that rarely do those exchanges stay within the confines of a two-way conversation.

To emphasize this, Hill has been part of seminars locally on the legal aspects of social media. He presents a series of tweets between an employee at work and her coworker at home that illustrates how trade secrets can become compromised, whistle-blower laws are impacted and defamation of other employees or a commercial competitor might occur.

“It shows how the world of social media can run amuck,” he said.

Hill is a native Memphian and graduate of White Station High School. He attended Millsaps College, the University of Mississippi and the University of Memphis to finish his undergraduate degree and attend law school, graduating in 1977.

It was an uncle, an attorney in Mississippi, who piqued his interest in the legal profession.

“I used to spend a lot of time in his office and he had a lot of books and I liked to read,” he said.

After law school, Hill took a job with Wilson, McRae, Ivy, Sevier to practice insurance defense. Waring Cox was his next stop from 1979 to 2001 when that firm merged with Glankler Brown.

Hill’s practice moved more to the fields of general commercial litigation practice, commercial transaction lawsuits and securities matters, which led him into work in broker dealer regulations. Employment law, as well, became a large part of his focus.

“There were very few people doing employment law defense practice when I started doing it,” he said. “I got picked to handle a case and got interested from that point forward.”

In the fall of 2000, Hill became a Fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers, an invitation-only group comprising only about one or two percent of the lawyers in any state at any one time. Nomination is by peers and one’s record as a trial lawyer is thoroughly reviewed.

“That’s probably the highest honor I have achieved as a trial lawyer,” he said.

In addition to this honor, Hill is a recipient of The Best Lawyers in America, Commercial Litigation, Labor and Employment Law; a Mid-South Super Lawyer; and is a member of the Tennessee Bar Association, Memphis Bar Association, Defense Research Institute and sits on the board of directors for the Greater Memphis Chamber.

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