Tag Archives: blogging

Five Reasons Lawyers Should Write For A Personal Blog

As a lawyer, it may be less obvious what you have in common with Perez Hilton (other than both being fans of Glee).

However, like Perez Hilton, attorneys should learn to appreciate the value of a personal blog site.

Although lawyers should probably avoid celebrity gossip, attorneys would benefit from contributing personal content to an individual blog site. And, here’s why.

1. Productive Diversion. Angry birds and Pinterest can certainly fill up your free time. However, a personal blog allows attorneys to make more productive use of their lunch hour.

Stuart Brown wrote in his book Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul writes, “I have gathered and analyzed thousands of case studies that I call play histories. I have found that remembering what play is all about and making it part of our daily lives are probably the most important factors in being a fulfilled human being.”

When moving physical locations is impossible (law firms frown upon playground breaks for attorneys), briefly browsing the Internet for fun, diverting subjects, videos, or photos can substitute as “play.”

“The ability to play is critical not only to being happy, but also to sustaining social relationships and being a creative innovative person.”

Writing about your favorite sports team, commenting on news items, or reposting interesting videos are each great ways to maintain a positive personal attitude in an often stressful environment.

2. Hone Your Writing Skills. Lawyers write briefs and motions all day, but practice (so they say) makes perfect.

In addition to honing your writing skills for legal briefs, a personal blog can also help lawyers to hone their skills in writing communications for clients. Blogs, by nature, are more informal and cater to a different audience.

Practice colloquializing legalese. Clients will be grateful to (finally!) fully understand the status of their case with your newfound informal communication.

3. Brush Up On News. Although many lawyers already watch the evening news or read the morning paper, a lawyer’s professional work benefits from being up-to-date on current events.

Brushing up on recent news is fodder for elevator conversation with colleagues, and, now, it can be fodder for editorial content on your personal blog.

4. Discover A Different Area Of Law. Depending on your practice, the day-to-day legal work you are conducting may or may not be your primary interest. So, when you’re tired filing patent applications, use a personal blog as an outlet to read and research an area of law that attracts you most.

As a younger attorney, sometimes biglaw dominates your time with pages and pages of doc review. A personal blog allows you to return to those challenging student days of mock trial and competition.

Not every day at work will be intellectually stimulation. But, everyday of blogging can be.

5. Networking. Having an online presence—in any form—always makes for good networking.

So, in addition to joining LinkedIn, online professional groups, and social media networks, give personal blogging a try in order to increase your online visibility.

-WB

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O’Keefe Responds To Lexis PR Rep: Why Real Lawyers Have Blogs… And A Social Media Policy

According to a survey of social media in the legal sector by LexisNexis and Vizibility, 81 percent of lawyers claim that they already use social media as marketing tools. Another 10.1 percent saying they plan to deploy social media marketing elements within six months.

Only 12 percent of lawyers do not use a Blackberry, iPhone, Android, or other smartphone in their business. For everybody else, there are these top 10 apps for Android phone and iPhone users.

And, as of today, U.K. lawyers can now find LexisNexis apps for their iPhone and iPad.

Nick West, director of Legal Markets for LexisNexis, stated in a press release today:

“The On the Case and Legal Terms apps fuse the accuracy, content and easy-to-use search you would expect from LexisNexis, with access from iPhone and iPad. Legal practice is evolving rapidly, and lawyers are increasingly expected to advise clients whilst on the move. By listening closely to our customers’ needs, we are creating ever-more flexible products–giving our users the ability to access our market-leading information away from their office as easily as they can at their desk.”

Both apps are free to subscribers of Lexis®Library and can be accessed with current customer ID and passwords.

It’s important for law firms to make use of social media in their marketing practice. Blogging is becoming mainstream, just ask Kevin O’Keefe and his aptly named site “Read Lawyers Have Blogs.”

Kevin O’Keefe wrote an article about Lexis’ announcement, and also attached a PowerPoint from Dr. Corrine Weisberger of St. Edward’s University to his article, which discusses using Twitter as a public relations’ tool. You can find the PPT here.

Although law firms and legal services professionals are finally employing social media and blogging to advance their businesses, these firms are still lacking in a consistent social media policy.

Take, for example, Kevin O’Keefe’s complaint about the Lexis press release today. In an attempt to “spread the word” about Lexis’ apps, Kevin O’Keefe attempted to locate the Twitter handle of the press release’s author, Melissa Higgs.

“I couldn’t find Higgs Twitter handle. Nothing on a general Google search except for a Melissa Higgs, also in the UK, who says her tweets are personal. No one by the name of Melissa Higgs on Twitter who says they are working for LexisNexis. Not seeing any tweets referencing LexisNexis from folks by the name of ‘Melissa Higgs’ on Twitter, I didn’t want to give an incorrect attribution by guessing. I went to Higgs LinkedIn profile, where most folks include their Twitter handles. Nothing,” writes O’Keefe.

“Time to get with it folks. Time to make it easier on people like me who are trying to help you do your job.”

 O’Keefe is not wrong.

Unsurprisingly, in the same survey of social media in the legal sector by LexisNexis and Vizibility, when asked, “Does your firm have a social media policy or guidelines for social media,” only 61.2 percent of legal professionals responded yes.

LexisNexis will surely benefit from its iPhone and iPad apps, but it’s currently losing out from not advertising these apps via Twitter, among other Internet conduits. LexisNexis needs a policy that streamlines the company’s use of social media for marketing.

So where should they start?

Perhaps these three, simple steps:

1. Formulate a strategy. Many firms are stymied when it comes to creating a social media strategy. These days, companies (like this one) are available to walk you through the process. For “do it yourself” firms, come up with a game plan and series of goals for your social media use—is it for client education, employee recruitment, or PR? Then, circulate this strategy to your firm’s appropriate department.

2. Implement guidelines. Social media policies should explain to associates expectations for their participation on sites, such as LinkedIn, Facebook, or Twitter. It should also create guidelines for the firm’s social media use: How often will the firm post, who is responsible for posting, and how will all your social media systems correspond with one another (see O’Keefe’s point about trying to locate a Twitter handle via LinkedIn).

3. Encourage associates to use social media. As the aforementioned survey details, social media has infiltrated the legal profession. Used as a marketing strategy, firms benefit from having their name saturating the digital world. Encourage your associates to belong to these networking sites. Or, to blog about their experience with the firm. Had Lexis done encouraged social media use among its employees, Melissa Higgs would likely be on Twitter. The Internet is undoubtedly the first place that prospective clients and new employees will look to be introduced to your firm.

To conclude, ensure the name of your firm—and its services—is always linked with descriptions like “innovative” and “cutting-edge” by making better use of technology and social media, and implementing a policy to protect your corresponding online reputation.

For more information about formulating a social media policy, attend one of the Center For Competitive Management’s courses on social media, including “Developing a Social Media Policy: Clear Guidelines to Prevent or Reduce Employment-Related Problems.”

 

-WB

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Beware Of Blogging: Virginia State Bar’s Message To Attorneys Via Surprising Misconduct Charge

Considering a blog site for your law firm? Perhaps you should check with your State Bar first.

In one of the first cases of its kind, the Virginia State Bar has brought a misconduct charge against a criminal defense attorney in the state for blogging about cases on which he has worked.

The State Bar alleges that Richmond criminal defense attorney Horace Hunter is using his firm’s blog site for advertising, read the full charge here. Hunter counter-argues that his articles consist of news and commentary, read his blog here.

Does Virginia’s charge violate Hunter’s rights to free speech? Or, are lawyers using firm blogs to get around the ethical and legal requirements of advertising?

In light of the economic recession, lawyers are looking to improve their practice and attract new clients through a variety of social media. Articles advising firms to open Twitter accounts, Facebook pages, and blog sites are abound.

And, for good reason.

In 2011, four out of five American businesses with 100 or more employees use social media marketing, according to research conducted by eMarketer. That’s a significant increase from 2008 when a mere 42 percent of companies marketed via social media, reports the same source.

So, businesses are using social media, like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Blogger, both to seek customers and to also find appropriate legal representation. Law firms, for their turn, are competing with one another to sign as many corporate clients as possible.  

Standing out in a technology-driven crowd can be difficult for law firms. Impossible for those behind the digital times.

But, at least one State Bar is sending a message to its attorneys that ethical and legal rules about advertising your firm still apply in the blogosphere, reports The Washington Post.

Except discussing cases—even your own—has been a longstanding tradition for lawyers nationwide. Usually it’s done in speeches, post-courtroom press talks, or newspaper interviews.

Are blog posts any different?

“If the Virginia Bar believes that blogs that discuss news and commentary should have stringent disclaimers that precede the content because they are deemed to be advertisements, then the Virginia Bar may have to require that every blog post, blog comments on other blogs and other user-generated content by an attorney to contain a strict disclaimer,” Brad Shear, a Bethesda attorney specializing in social media law, said to The Washington Post.

“It becomes a slippery slope.”

 

Whatever your opinion on this matter, it’s important to understand the risks of creating a blog for your firm.

If you decided to do so, protect your firm via the following four steps:

  1. Create a disclaimer on the “About” page or at the end of each post; 
  2. Get written consent from your clients to discuss their cases on the blog;
  3. Implement an internal Social Media Policy for your firm; and 
  4. Remember Nicole Black, attorney and author of Social Media for Lawyers: The Next Frontier, a good rule of thumb is “if you can’t do it off-line, you can’t do it online.”

-WB

 

For more information, attend C4CM’s course, “Social Media Policy Dos and Don’ts: Employees, Networking Sites and the Law.”

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Three Ways To Increase Readership Of Your Legal Blog

The importance of social media has been hammered into the heads of lawyers.

So, now you have a blog, but what exactly do you do with it?

Real Lawyers Have Blogs is pointing professionals in the direction of this article, “Build A Blog, Build A Practice.”

The article states, “Twitter and Facebook may be a useful part of the mix in social media marketing, but neither is a substitute for blogging. Blogs can still showcase a firm’s expertise in a more substantial way, serve as a repository on information, and can increase the Search Engine Optimization (SEO) of the firm’s website. It is also a great way to exchange ideas on a particular issue , and for individual lawyers to create a public persona as experts in a particular field of law.”

In terms of blogging platforms, the article singles out six of the best websites, including:

  1. Blogger.com
  2. WordPress.com
  3. Lexblog.com
  4. Squarespace.com
  5. Typepad
  6. Posterous.com

“Blogging is still good way to get noticed and carve out a niche for yourself,” Simon Fodden, publisher of the leading Canadian law blog, Slaw, tells the article’s author, James Careless.

At the same time, just starting a blog is not enough. Your firm won’t get noticed if your blog lacks in readership. So, how do you attract the best and brightest of the legal field to your webspace?

First, post frequently. The easiest way to attract readers is to have ample content for them to read. This means devoting time each day, or at least, each week, to updating your blog. To start, use daily news articles to inspire content. Next, add some analysis. FInally, when you’ve gotten into a routine, start formulating original pieces that will inspire your audience and also demonstrate your skills and expertise as a lawyer.

Note: Don’t try to over-sell your legal services. If people trust your opinion on the blog, they’ll likely learn to trust your opinion as their counsel.

Second, keep the information current. In addition to frequent posting, a good legal blog writes about topical information. Yesterday’s news is exactly that. Stay in the loop by setting up Google Alerts and subscribing to other newsites and blogs. This way you’ll keep up-to-date with all the details and happenings in the industry.

For fun: Set up a Google Alert with a niche term or phrase, like “patent accident.” This will lead you to surprising sources and hopefully unique content.

Thrid, add a bit of controversy. If you’re feeling exceptionally brave, a great way to attract readership is through a bit of controversy. Add a forum for discussion on the most controversial cases, for example. Or, make a “tips” email address or hotline where readers can report events anonymously.

But, remember: Whatever you post on your blog will represent your firm. So, include a strong disclaimer or seek firm approval before writing anything that’s, well, NSFW.

You’ll be surprised how fast blogging becomes a part of your everyday practice. And, equally surprised at how much attention (and business) you’ll gain from it.

(I’ve done my part, now for your turn.)

-WB

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Social Media Recruitment On The Rise, But Should Your Firm Follow Suit?

In May, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) closed its investigation into whether or not an “Internet and social media background screening service used by employers in pre-employment background screening” complied with the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA).

The reporting agency in question, Social Intelligence, was deemed “a consumer reporting agency because it assembles or evaluates consumer report information that is furnished to third parties that use such information as a factor in establishing a consumer’s eligibility for employment.”

Taken out of legalese, this statement confirms that employers intent on issuing social media checks on employment candidates must comply with FCRA rules.

This means, when FCRA rules apply, employers will need to complete the following actions:

  1. Review the notice and authorization currently provided to applicants to ensure that these documents cover social media searches.
  2. If an applicant is selected for elimination from consideration based on the results of such a social media check—in whole or in part—be sure to receive a pre-adverse action notice that will supply the applicant with the same report received by the employer, or the FTC’s “A Summary Of Your Rights Under the FCRA.” Candidates have the right to dispute any alleged adverse information with the service provider that conducted the social check.
  3. Finally, after rejecting said applicant, release a final adverse action notice to the applicant, which should be written according to the language required by the FCRA.

However, the subtext of this news for employers is equally important as the rule-following.

According to a recent 2011 study conducted by the Society of Human Resources Management (SHRM), as reported by the Workplace Privacy Counsel, 56 percent of employers rely on social media for recruitment purposes. The number of employers relying on social media checks to hire new associates has increased by 22 percent since 2008.

According to the same study, an additional 20 percent of employers who do not currently use social media for recruiting intend to do so at some point in the future.

The sites most used by employers for recruitment purposes are LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter (certainly makes you rethink that last tweet).

facebookscreenshot

In any case, the SHRM survey doesn’t cover employers who conduct social media searches exclusively in-house, which are not subject to FCRA rules. The market for social media recruitment (and not simply the professional services who conduct them) is on the rise.

But how valuable is this information, really, for vetting possible candidates?

Philip Gordon, of Workplace Privacy Counsel, explains that the two major issues with social media recruitment are compliance and reliability. With compliance issues already briefly outlined, it’s time to question information objectivity and usefulness.

“Court systems, educational institutions, and employers, for example, have an inherent interest in maintaining accurate records for their own legitimate business purposes. By contrast, social media are replete with false, doctored, and biased information about others,” writes Gordon.

“Perhaps more importantly, social media posts apparently created by the author can be forged. I have recently counseled clients on two separate occasions where employees denied having posted on their Facebook wall negative information about the employer or co-workers, credibly claiming that others had stolen their log-in credentials or hacked into their account.”

So what’s left to believe these days?

If your firm decides it still wants to use social media for a recruitment tool, ask yourself what answers you’re hoping to unearth via the Internet. If they’re of a truly personal nature, is this information legal to obtain or consider during an application?

If your goal is professional, are there other, traditional ways to procure more reliable credentials—references, letters of referral, university transcripts, for example—that are less invasive?

Technology is a vital asset to a law firm. But, if the information you seek about potential candidates is more tangential in nature—simply a way of finding a few candidates to that stand out—one-on-one interactions and interviews are often underestimated tools in today’s world of digital profiles.

Just something to consider in between updating your blog.

-WB

There are a lot of benefits to online recruitment. Attend C4CM‘s course, “Facebook Recruiting Made Easy: How to Find Talent Today with Social Media” to learn more.

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Tips For Voir Dire: Check Faces and Facebook

As a litigator, your biggest concern is getting the jury to understand and sympathize with the person you’re defending. But what if one juror was so empathetic, she used social media messaging to contact your client?

The aforementioned scenario is exactly what landed one English juror in a lot of trouble during a high-profile narcotics case in the U.K. In fact, continual electronic messaging to the defendant earned her eight months in prison (and most likely an automatic out of the national jury pool) for being in contempt of court.

Among today’s tips for voir dire, lawyers should not only monitor jury members’ faces, but also, apparently, their facebook accounts.

In this instance, forty-year old juror Joanne Fraill contacted defendant Jamie Sewart after Stewart was acquitted of all charges but before other accused defendants had been sentenced. The case was a second retrial, which collapsed soon after Fraill’s misstep had been brought to light.

Here in America, jurors are none the wiser. Just today, a juror in a Queens rape case was fined $1,000 after it was discovered he texted a friend details of the deliberations. The case resulted in a mistrial.  

In Minority Trial Lawyer, commercial litigator Denise Zamore discusses this type of juror behavior and the increased number of fines, juror exclusions, and mistrials as a result of social media and technology, saying:    

“Within the past few years, trials throughout the country have been affected by juror use of technology to research and communicate via the Internet, often affecting the rights of litigants to have their cases decided only on admitted evidence, and thus allowing the deliberative process to go beyond its authorized limits. In addition to conducting Internet research, jurors now blog, tweet, and post to Facebook and MySpace about their trials.”

In fact, last year, lawyers, judges, and legal government bodies were so unanimously concerned with this trend that on January 28, 2010, the Judicial Conference Committee on Court Administration and Case Management issued model jury instructions to each United States District Court Judge. The instructions outline the legal responsibilities of jurors, specifically rules on the use of social media.

Wired published a copy of the model jury instructions here.

As much as judges and attorneys will attempt to dissuade and prevent it, sharing information via the Internet is far too tempting a (cyber)space. It’s likely, despite commands to the contrary, jurors will still tweet, status update, or message inappropriate particulars about a trial.

So, in this light, there are a few steps that Zamore offers than can help prevent facilitate blind justice.   

  1. During voir dire, counsel should inquire as to jurors’ usage of the Internet generally, and social media specifically. Inquire as to what websites jurors frequent, how often they access those websites, and if they post to those websites. Ask whether the jurors blog.
  2. Counsel should request that in his initial instructions to the jury, the judge expressly prohibit research and communications on the Internet at any time during the trial. The instructions should explicitly reference and prohibit the use of social media, including Facebook, Twitter, and MySpace.
  3. Counsel can also request that the judge remind jurors of the penalties for conducting outside research and require jurors to sign declarations stating that they will not research the case details on the Internet.
  4. During a trial, counsel should regularly check social media websites to confirm whether jurors are posting or blogging regarding the trial.
  5. Counsel should take the preemptive step of conducting their own Internet research to learn what information exists online about the trial, including any information regarding the litigants, witnesses, and lawyers. Counsel should review their case and consider what questions might arise during the trial that could prompt a juror to look elsewhere for answers.
  6. Counsel should take these questions into consideration when putting together its case presentation. 
  7. Where juror misconduct seems apparent, counsel should strongly consider a post verdict motion for voir dire of a juror to determine whether juror misconduct has in fact occurred.

The risks of free-flowing conversation via social media and the Internet are not limited to trial law. Law firm administrators should be aware of what their own associates are posting in terms of client or case information, the practice, or its partners.

Consider drafting a social media policy for employees—much like the Judicial Conference Committee’s jury instructions—that specifies acceptable behavior regarding Facebook, Twitter, and blogs. Include penalties (somewhere between eight months in prison and $1,000) that will deter this type of negligent behavior.

-WB


For more information, attend C4CM’s course titled, “Social Media Policy Dos and Don’ts: Employees, Networking Sites and the Law.”

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