Tag Archives: social networking

Yes, You Can Supercharge Your Online Presence – A Few Simple Tips.

A perfectly professional law firm that doesn’t have a solid online presence just won’t be taken seriously, say a trio of lawyers, authors, presenters and bloggers in the February issue of Law Practice Today this past year.   The good news:  it’s relatively simple, painless and inexpensive to do.

Jim Calloway, Nerino Petro and Reid Trautz are law management specialists who firmly believe that “web-based marketing, including social networking and refurbishing law firm websites” can take over—in fact, they have to take over–the old standby of a printed brochure.

Trautz introduced the concept of making over your in-house marketing efforts in in The Busy Lawyer’s Guide to Success, where he directed readers to check out the LPT piece that will help you stay in the “sweet spot” of legal marketing.

The idea of bringing lawyers and technology together is not new, but it’s had a rougher time with the legal industry than with most since, for the longest time, lawyers were loathe to surrender the time-honored tradition of understated marketing.  Word-of-mouth was the primary referral “back then”. 

Now that cyberspace marketing has had a chance to take off in legaldom, however, lawyers have seen the benefits of social media and of a spiffy site, and they’ve been quick to jump on board.  (You can still have understated elegance in a site with all the bells and whistles of audio, video and social media links.)

But newer aspects of what’s available on line—some of it completely free, and all fairly straight-forward—bear looking into.   Here are some tips for using your web presence to stand head-and-shoulders above the rest:

1. Build a free Google profile.  This comes with the account. If you’re registered with Gmail or some other Google account, you can take a half-hour or so to fill in the fields asking you about yourself.  Make the answers firm-suitable, of course.

Once you link onto your firm website and to other online content, you’ll be on a par with folks who pay thousands of dollars to SEO experts who tell you that Search Engine Optimization is the only way to get your name to come up, when folks Google your name.

2.  Have you learned how to create podcasts yet?  If so, you’ll make visitors to your site really happy if you give them a “take-away” that they can use.   Develop several topics.   Trautz tells you that you might also:

“Create a booklet, handbook, report or CD such as on ‘Know Your Rights as an Accident Victim’, ‘The Top 10 Things Every Home Seller Needs to Know’ or ‘The Pet Owner’s Guide to Estate Planning for Pets’.”

3. Get your free ad!  Google offers a free ad for local businesses. Your ad will rotate with other ads of businesses in the region and appear on “thousands of computer screens in your area”.  You can go to www.google.com/local/add for more information.

4.  Yes, a crisp, professionally stylized and shot photo is important, but don’t plaster your photo on everything.  If your mug is seen everywhere, it waters down the impact.  Do make it a photo where you’re possessed of a friendly, accessible expression. Don’t look grim or dismal.

And there are times when you might want to include other photos, besides one of you.  For instance, says the author:

“If you’re advertising for personal injury cases, show pictures of injured folks and medical personal, not just you.”

Read “Ten Tips to Supercharge Your On-Line Presence” for more helpful hints.

Cartoon courtesy of David Mills’ “Courtoons – Daily Legal Cartoons by David Mills”   http://www.courtoons.net/

-EM

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Internet Censorship Sends Wrong Signal To Associates—Checking Social Media At Work

Is Facebook an open window on your computer screen while you’re reading this blog post?

If so, you’re not alone.

Studies show that among business professionals, 58.5 percent check Facebook regularly, nearly 50 percent check LinkedIn regularly, 23 percent check Twitter, and 22 percent consult blogs (hint: that’s you) while at work.

Although younger generations spend almost double the number of hours on social media sites per day than older generations (1.8 hours for Generation Y versus 1 hour for Baby Boomers), social media use among all professionals in general is on the rise.

Administrators seem to think this is point of concern. About 54 percent of companies have blocked social networking websites at the office, reports digital consultant Arik Hanson. And, according to a study by Steve Matthews and Doug Cornelius, 45 percent of law firms have done the same.

However, before you make an appointment with your IT Department to follow suit, consider Kevin O’Keefe’s points for “Why law firms need to stop blocking the use of social media,” on his site Real Lawyers Have Blogs:

  • Nearly all companies (94% per Digital Media Wire) are investing in social media as a marketing/communications tool. Assuming your law firm is investing in social media, but you limit social media’s use by your employees, you are saying, per Hanson, “We believe in the power of social media to help us market our products and services, we just don’t trust our employees because we think they’ll waste an inordinate amount of time on Facebook.”
  • More of your lawyers are relying on social networks to do their jobs. How often do you turn to friends and colleagues online for advice? How often do you read blogs to keep up with industry trends? Data suggests 25 percent of employees rely heavily on social networks in the workplace. It’s probably higher for your star lawyers and other professionals.
  • You’re going to lose lawyers and other professionals to competitors. Per a study by American Express, 39 percent of younger workers won’t even consider working for a company that blocks Facebook. Facebook has become the communication tool of choice for many young professionals. Why would they work for a law that’s going to block its use?
  • Smartphones and tablets. By the end of this year 50 percent of all Americans will own a smartphone. The fastest growing use of mobile? Social networking. Everywhere I travel I see lawyers with two mobile phones, a blackberry and an iPhone or Android. Your lawyers and other professionals are already using social media.
  • Breaks equal more-productive employees. Recent research suggests employees who are given short breaks to surf the Web or connect with friends on Facebook are more productive than those who don’t. No one stopped lawyers from stopping to have a cup of coffee with others, why block social media?
  • Lawyers receive work because of their relationships and word of mouth reputation. Social media and the Internet doesn’t change that. Social media is just an accelerator of relationships and the spread of your word of mouth reputation.

Consensus among the blogosphere is that blocking associates’ access to social media sites sends the signal that administrators and firm partners don’t trust associates to manage their own workload.

More importantly, managing partners should pay attention to the performance of their attorneys in the form of personal interaction instead of relying on spyware or internet censorship software.

One-on-one training and mentorship is more important a concern than worrying about your associates’ facebook friendships. So stop blocking social media websites, and start focusing on the delivery of high-quality products to your client—even if the multitasking methods your young associates use are less than traditional.

-WB

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Being Sociable – A Less Constrained Form of Connecting, Although Some Companies Blocking Access

There are a myriad of ways in which you may meet up with like-minded individuals, or partner with professionals who are not members of your inner (or even outer) circle.  There are groups for every proclivity under the sun.  Are you a lawyer and mom? There’s a group.  Lawyer and a single dad?  There’s (probably) a group.  Lawyer who’s interested in technology? There’s MeetUp Group.

And although the jury’s still out on just how much of these connections can be had on the internet, it does seem that social networking can give you a more direct line from A to B.  With good old-fashioned socializing, however—although it may take you a bit longer–some might say you score higher points.  There’s nothing like sitting across the table from a new colleague and sharing a cup of coffee or tea or a leisurely lunch.  You can ask about their kids, their hobbies, their dreams and ambitions.  You can share yours, too.  And you can also exchange business cards (or include each other’s stats on your BlackBerry.).


Socializing has long been a tried-and-true method of securing clients.   According to a Mashable blog on lawyers and technology, social media will fill the bill nicely and will, in fact, be the socializing tool of the future.  A few tech-savvy lawyers were interviewed for their take on the subject.

“There is a strangely analog solution to all this social media,” said one. “The lawyers/experts we spoke with said that social media was most effective at creating offline relationships — meaning, the Internet helped them meet real people they might not have met or partnered with otherwise.”   Another attorney had this to say: “As attorneys, we’re selling ourselves and our time and our degree.”

This attorney admitted that social media helps extend that effort.   Speaking of social media, how does one contend  with the sometimes confounding particulars?  Whether to go with the trendy Facebook or the newest platform, Google +, for instance.  As per “The Sociable Lawyer Blog”, you’ll want to go with a company that is anything but haphazard when running its social network.

This “responsible stewardship of…personal information”, notes the author, falls to the more entrenched company.  “Facebook is a young, fast moving company that has proved itself to be cavalier in its movements, lacking in respect for user data privacy, and accident prone,” we read. “Google on the other hand, is a far more mature company that is, I would argue, seen as more trustworthy than Facebook. For the most part, Google has lived up to its “Don’t Be Evil” slogan.”

Perhaps it’s this fear of sharing personally identifiable information that has led to what can only be termed a moderately widespread blocking of social media by companies nationwide.  According to The Chicago Tribune, the global law firm Proskauer surveyed 120 multinational employers, recently, and discovered that three-quarters of businesses use social media and just under 30 percent of these businesses prevent their employees from using it.

There’s a growing amount of international case law which allows employers to prohibit “the use of social network sites during work, both on an employer’s equipment and on an employee’s own devices and to block the sites on employer-provided equipment.”  (They were not, however, allowed to look over the employees’ shoulder when the employees were using their own devices.  This would violate privacy rights.)

When all is said and done, whether you’re stopping to talk to an attendee at a workshop or hobnobbing with a new bunch of folks you met in a group on-line, your agenda is looser and you’re both (or all) seeing each other during “open collar time”.  There’s more of a chance to get to know the whole person, and that’s exactly the sort of quality impression that you want prospects—and potential friends—to take away from your meeting. Socializing–in all its forms—is well worth the while.

-EM

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Professional Standards And How To Avoid Defamation Suits With Social Media Disclaimers

“This Is Not A Post About Joseph Rakofsky” is both a disclaimer and blog post about competent, dedicated lawyers–models in the profession. The lawsuit and controversy now commonly referred to as Rakofsky v. The Internet is garnering popular press, to be sure. The takeaway lesson in this case (and blog post), however, more subtly concerns rules of libel for social media, disclaimer strategies, or online ethics—as opposed to a young lawyers’ naiveté.

A blog can become a valuable marketing strategy for your firm. But, before you write a legal blog, there are a few details to consider. To avoid falling victim to a similar suit as Rakofsky’s, think about what content, comments, copyright, names, logos, or images may need to be accompanied by a disclaimer.

The Blog Herald provides a variety of model disclaimers for blogs that may prove useful for your firm. For example, is there a single individual who writes for a company blog? If so, you may need a disclaimer like this: “This is a personal website and blog. The opinions expressed here represent my own and not those of my employer.”

The Blog Herald uses the Rutgers Business School Blog disclaimer as a good example: “The opinions expressed by the RBS Student Bloggers and those providing comments are theirs alone, and do not reflect the opinions of the Rutgers Business School or any employee thereof. Rutgers Business School is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the Student Bloggers.”

If the nature of your blog is more controversial, a disclaimer may not be sufficient. In all cases, your attorney authors should read-up on the law regarding libel, defamation, and malice. While it’s fun to criticize certain ill-thought actions of your peers (like Above The Law’s often sardonic nomination of Lawyer of the Month), it’s also important to understand the liabilities and potential for prosecution attached to publishing such articles.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has a Bloggers’ Legal Guide that defines defamation as the following:

“Generally, defamation is a false and unprivileged statement of fact that is harmful to someone’s reputation, and published ‘with fault,’ meaning as a result of negligence or malice. State laws often define defamation in specific ways. Libel is a written defamation; slander is a spoken defamation.”

The Guide goes on to define the differences between an expressed opinion, a statement of verifiable fact, and the subtleties involved when reporting on private versus public figures. Disclosing exactly who is authoring your blog (or facebook feeds and tweets), including their credentials, background, and remuneration, also gives more credibility to your posts.

Finally, if you’ve just had enough of all this legalese, emulate Valorem Law Group‘s humorous legal disclaimer (via Legal Antics):

Normally we would put this in really small print, but several leading eye physicians have advised us to stick to larger fonts).

We’re lawyers. Although we assume that everyone will understand that the information on this site is intended to make you want to call and hire us immediately, we see that big firms have these fancy disclaimers and we sure like tugging on their capes…. So here goes:

  1. The information on this site (and in the blog) is not intended to create an attorney-client relationship. Frankly, you don’t want it to do so either. Since the site can be viewed by any person on the planet, claiming that we have an attorney client relationship as a result of this site would lead to an immediate claim that you’ve waived the privilege. If you’re crazy enough to want that outcome, we don’t want to be your law firm. Even if you contact us through the site or post a comment to the blog, that does not give rise to an attorney-client relationship either. Don’t you feel better now?
  2. Don’t send us any confidential information until we expressly agree that we have any attorney-client relationship with you. After all, we might have a conflict of interest (given our size, that is pretty unlikely, but you never know for sure). So be smart and safe and keep it confidential until we say it’s okay to send stuff to us.
  3. The sites that we link to via hyperlinks are not under our control. Those sites are responsible for the content of those sites. The sun, the moon and the rotation of the Earth are not under our control either. We’re working on it, but don’t hold your breath, and don’t try to make us responsible for other sites, bad weather, global warming or any malady that befalls you. If you try, we may have to send our crack in-house security team to visit you.
  4. We are normal people, which means we don’t do tax law. Nothing in the site refers to or mentions tax law. If you have a tax question, you’re in the wrong place. Find a tax lawyer. Preferably one with a personality. Again, don’t hold your breath.
  5. The world is an ever-changing place, which means that content can become outdated quickly. While we hope to avoid having outdated material on our site, we can’t guarantee that everything is timely, so don’t rely on the timeliness or accuracy of the information on the site. (Only a lawyer would put out information to impress you and then say “don’t rely on it.” And while we don’t want to come across like other lawyers, we don’t want to have to update our website every night either.)

So there it is. We’ve done the lawyerly thing. Aren’t you glad we got that out of the way. Now back to the revolutionizing of the practice of law.

-WB

For more (serious) information, attend C4CM’s conference “Social Networking, Lawyers, and Ethics: Minimizing the Risk, Maximizing the Benefits.”

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Lawsuit Against Facebook? “Like” This.

Poking is unacceptable behavior in most social environments, except social networking. But, according to at least one New York lawsuit, even facebook poking is inappropriate and in certain cases, illegal.  

Actually, the lawsuit addresses facebook’s feature of “liking” pages. Facebook—the social networking mogul—is getting yet another thumbs down for its advertising measures, this time, for allegedly using the photos and names of minors who “like” select brands on the website.  

New York resident Scott Nastro filed a suit seeking class-action status this week that claims the name and photo of his child, as well as other minors, have been used in “social ads” by Facebook since 2007 without parental consent. Under the New York Civil Rights Law, a person’s picture cannot be used for advertising purposes without that person’s permission. Nastro not only invoked this law in his complaint, but will likely seek damages. Bloomberg covers this story in more detail.   

Social media—whether restrictions on its use in the workplace or the networking sites themselves—has certainly been receiving a lot of media attention. With so much technology at play in today’s everyday environment, it’s no surprise that the number of suits and subpoenas involving msn, myspace, facebook, twitter, or craigslist, for example, are on the rise.  

Now, requesting data or information from these social media sites is just as easy as signing up for them.  

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (and the blog, An Associate’s Mind) is on your digital defense, sending a “Freedom of Information Act request to a half-dozen government agencies seeking their policies for using social networking sites for investigations, data-collection, and surveillance.”  

Since 1990, EFF has “championed the public interest in every critical battle affecting digital rights.” They believe “from the Internet to the iPod, technologies are transforming our society and empowering us as speakers, citizens, creators, and consumers.”  

In protection of these digital rights, the EFF has produced Law Enforcement Guides to several social media and e-commerce websites, including:  

  1. Facebook 2010 Law Enforcement Guide
  2. Craigslist Law Enforcement Guide
  3. Twitter Law Enforcement Guidelines    

Litigation is going to see a continued increase in social media and electronic discovery requests. With myriad sites to track and choose from, the process can be complicated. Luckily, the EFF has created a spreadsheet in PDF and XLS formats to compare and juxtapose all pertinent law enforcement and privacy guidelines.

This way, the only thing your firm must worry about is the difference between myface and spacebook.

 

-WB

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