Tag Archives: blogs

Why Entrepreneurs Need Lawyers & Why Lawyers Need Blogs (Or Other Innovative Business Practices)

Can lawyers be entrepreneurs, too?

Well, as we’ve already discussed, lawyers are successful entrepreneurs when:

  1. Their law firm practice stands the test of time;
  2. Their law firm practice earns more than it spends;
  3. Their law firm practice creates an impact on the industry;
  4. Their law firm practice earns public recognition; or
  5. Their law firm practice achieves its mission or goal.

How well a law firm manager improves the firm’s training scheme, ameliorates his personal leadership style, and advances legal technology used by associates will ultimately impact the number of clients he attracts and new business he sustains.

Luckily, this job just got easier.

The Virginia Supreme Court in Horace Hunter v. Virginia State Bar ruled on the extent to which law firms can promote their practice and previous legal wins via a blog or website.

“The Virginia majority held that Hunter did not have to seek clients’ permission to discuss past closed cases, even if there was a possibility that the clients would suffer embarrassment or some other harm by the public airing of their affairs. The court also ruled that Hunter’s blogging about past courtroom successes on his firm’s website constituted an advertisement, even though he also included commentary on the criminal justice system. As a result, the majority said he should have included a standard disclaimer cautioning against too much reliance on past results.” (via Above The Law)

When it comes to non-legal entities, like (ironically) the blog reporting on this blog ruling, not all legal blogs represent commercial speech.

Above The Law reports, “The opinion was kind enough to put our personal legal questions to rest by citing Above the Law as the sort of legal blog that transcended the strictures that apply to Hunter’s blog. According to the Virginia Supreme Court, ATL is not legal advertising because we have commenters. Thanks y’all.”

But, that’s not all.

Not only are courts smiling fondly on legal blogs these days, but the blogosphere itself is promoting legal work. Consider, for example, a recent post on the Harvard Business Review Blog. It reads, “Ready to Innovate? Get a Lawyer.”

As it turns out, lawyers can be entrepreneurs. And, entrepreneurs—in turn—desperately need lawyers.

Just as quickly as breakthrough innovations take place, laws are put in place to take them down. Scottish scientists closed a sheep named Dolly and then President Bill Clinton issued an executive order banning federal funds to do the same.

Fledgling start-up website Napster was shut down the same year incumbent music conglomerate Apple launched iTunes, reports HBR. Patent trolls roam the Internet putting a stop to innovators who license their intellectual property too late.

Just as new technology crops up, so does corresponding litigation.

“Now, more startups are even opening their own policy offices in Washington, Brussels, and other lawmaking capitals. Only four years into its existence, for example, Twitter opened a D.C. office headed up by a former senior Congressional and FCC staffer. Facebook’s D.C. office has almost 30 employees,” writes Larry Downes for HBR.

“Google, Microsoft, Yahoo and other Silicon Valley brand names all have their own, often extensive, government operations. For the new breed of disruptive innovators, it’s a necessary evil.”

Although calling law practice a “necessary evil” is certainly not what clients want to hear, lawyers—for their part—should be relieved to know that the business world is looking out for them. Entrepreneurs and lawyers need one another.

So, if your paid TV advertisement hasn’t reached the ears of potential clients yet, rest assured that bloggers are marketing your legal services free of charge.

In the end, Downes is addressing start-up companies and entrepreneurs in his HBR post. But, lawyers should also pay attention to his message. “When a single case can make or break your business, there’s no such thing as too much innovation—or too much lawyering,” Downes concludes.

In reverse, for those lawyers who resist change, fondly preserve “the good ole boys club”, reject new technology, or refuse to improve their firm management style, remember: when a single case can make or break your business, there’s no such think as too much innovation (period).

Don’t be stuck in a rut. Write a blog. Or, read more about innovation within law firms here.



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The Risks of Social Media Use For Lawyers

Although many legal consulting companies advise law firms to make good use of free and accessible social media, such as Twitter, blogging, or social network sites. Some consider the practice to be more of a trap than trail to success.

Thomas J. Watson, senior vice president and director of communications at Wisconsin Lawyers Mutual Insurance Co., recently wrote an article for the Wisconsin Lawyer titled, “Lawyers and Social Media: What could possibly go wrong?

According to Watson, “Potential hazards include losing control over your message, blurring professional and personal use, expending too much time and money on managing social media use, creating unrealistic client expectations, and making false or misleading communications about a lawyer’s services, not to mention the possibility of violating the rules of professional conduct.”

His article is full of sound professional advice, including, don’t talk about or to clients over social media, beware of the marketing-related Rules of Professional Conduct when writing online, and don’t give legal advice over the Internet.

In some sense, it’s common sense.

Of course, it’s natural to keep aware of conflicts of interest and to not engage in the unauthorized practice of law. Still, something about the anonymity of digital makes people forget about these daily professional conduct rules.

Also, the more software and technology used by your firm, the more necessary tools for confidentiality and protection, like an excellent IT Department, becomes.

Employees at your firm should properly secure its wireless network; update its antivirus software and build a firewall; and remember to remove metadata or password protect-sensitive email attachments.

But, are these risks—inherent in any online activity—so severe that they outweigh the benefits of using social media?

“Is fashion attorney Staci Riordan, perhaps the fastest woman associate to make equity partner at Fox Rothschild, a century old national law firm, advertising with her heavy use of Facebook and Twitter?” questions Kevin O’Keefe in his article “Is all use of social media subject to legal ethics rules?” on his blog.

The question seems rhetorical. And O’Keefe, author of Real Lawyers Have Blogs, believes social media is not about advertising, rather, it’s about building a conversation of trust between lawyers and their clients.

“Riordan, like many shrewd lawyers who truly understand relationships and reputation aren’t built by having separate online identities, uses Twitter and Facebook to network and engage with business leaders, other lawyers, civic leaders, and friends. Riordan knows networking to nurture relationships and establish trust with others so as to build a strong word of mouth reputation is the stuff life is made of for lawyers looking to grow their business and become better lawyers,” he writes.

Ultimately—like any great rivalry—O’Keefe and Watson want the same thing.

Both men want to watch the industry of law regain some of the reputation of honor and integrity it has lost over the years. And, both are eager to influence and advance their struggling profession.

As lawyer jokes become commonplace and the information highway makes pro se (and in-house) representation all that more accessible to Americans, law firms are seeking new outlets and tools for survival.

Using social media to keep up with the times has its risks. But, so does not using it. Embrace innovation.

If your firm still has concerns, consider hiring a consultant to guide you into the 21st century instead of driving you astray.




C4CM offers an audio recording that explains: Social Media at Work: Bulletproof Policies that Minimize Legal and Financial Risks

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More Lawyers Blogging As Social Media Gains Ground Within Law Sector, Survey Says

If you’re reading this blog, you’re not alone.

The legal profession, it turns out, is becoming inundated with law blogs. It only takes a quick Google search to realize all your major competitors have a blog for their firm.

According to a recently-released survey of social media in the legal sector by LexisNexis and Vizibility, 81 percent of survey participants reporting they already use social media marketing tools and another 10.1 percent saying they plan to deploy social media marketing elements within six months.

With so much interest and activity flurries within the legal blogging world, you may be surprised to find that this new industry is still fairly unstructured.

When asked, “Does your firm have a social media policy or guidelines for social media,” however, only 61.2 percent of legal professionals responded yes.

And, a small niche of lawyers continues to rebuff smartphones in 2011. At least 12 percent do not use a Blackberry, iPhone, Android, or other smartphone in their business, including scanning QR codes.

So, to those 30.8 percent of legal professionals who find social media to be extremely important to their firm’s overall marketing strategy (and the 48.8 percent who admit it’s somewhat important), here are three ways to propel your firm forward into the world wide web of successful social media users and profiteers.

1. Formulate a strategy

It’s a legitimate and smart step toward success to start a blog for your law firm. However, what next?

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.

Or, for “do it yourself” firms, come up with a game plan and series of goals for your social media use. Is the primary purpose recruitment? If so, gear your law firm articles toward law school students. Have your first-year associates control the content to keep it pertinent to the generation.

Is the main goal of your blog to attract new clients? If so, perhaps a managing partner or firm administrator should be the major contributor. Write about key case wins and other newsworthy successes. Add interesting profiles and photos of your most promising attorneys to garner attention from the outside world seeking counsel.

Allow third-parties to subscribe to your blog or newsletter, and aim its content toward business ideas or legal developments that would be of interest to your prospective clients and also ones that will show off your firm’s expertise.

2. Implement guidelines

Not only should your firm create a social media strategy, but it should also write a social media policy.

Social media policies should explain to associates expectations for their participation on sites, such as LinkedIn, Facebook, or Twitter.

What is your stance on associates having personal blogs? There’s nothing to stop free speech in this country, but you can certainly address for associates how your firm would like its image to be portrayed on the Internet.

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. The Internet is undoubtedly the first place that prospective clients and new employees will look to be introduced to your firm.

Robert Ambrogi, legal blogger, writes about the trend on LawSites, “For readers of blogs, there is a coming feast of abundance. For writers of blogs, the game is on to produce quality, thoughtful posts that will keep your blog from drowning.”

Don’t keep your acclaim or successes a secret. If your firm is part of the 19 percent who have yet to use social media as a marketing tool, it’s not too late to start today.


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.”

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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.


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How Lawyers Can Disseminate Information Wisely

Back in ’09, in the midst of the recession which some say never really left us, Sheldon I. Banoff, a tax law specialist for over 35 years, struggled to stay on top of changing regulations. Banoff turned that tussle into a helpful, still-relevant piece he wrote for Law.com.

It’s one thing to stay current with laws, news and happenings, he says, and another matter entirely to think you’re maintaining an organized flow of information if you’re feeling, well, overwhelmed. Banoff came up with a series of questions designed to determine whether one is in danger of information overload.

Here are a few ways to take your info-overflow temperature. (If you meet more than three criteria, chances are you’re running a fever.)

1. You’ve made up your mind that, as a successful attorney, you absolutely, positively must read every pertinent print or e-matter that crosses your desk or screen.

2. You’re TOO “linked-in”. You’ve made it a habit to log into several blogs in your arena; you’re chatting (these days, it’s texting) with lots of professionals and you’re on loads of e-mailing lists.

3. You spend so much time on the unimportant e-mails that you don’t have time to digest the important ones.

4. You stay on top of other law firm blogs because you feel a need to know what’s being said about your firm.

5. You’re a member of industry groups, bar associations, and receive many invitations to seminars and web-seminars for CPE credits.

6. You get every stripe of periodical imaginable…daily, weekly, monthly…you name it. But you never really read them because you are so backlogged that you can only scan the table of contents.

7. You’re on a phone call and, as a last resort, to catch up on the pile of messages and e-mails that threaten to inundate you, you find yourself going through them while you’re ostensibly giving your client or associate your undivided attention.

If you decide that that you are, indeed, in danger of drowning in all your backlogged reading material and “important” e-mails, here’s a life rope: you can simply control all this info-flow. And, yes, part of the solution entails going through it the moment it comes in, and vetting it then and there. Then it either stays, or goes.  No shuffling stuff around.

As a professional who, like you, dealt with a “plethora of…regulations, rulings, cases and legislation (and secondary sources)”, the author only found respite when he did the following–and he’s recommending that you do the same:

1. ID and streamline what you MUST read.

2. Develop a team approach to info dissemination. (Your colleagues can monitor some items for you.)

3. Stick to your ideal of how accessible you NEED to be.

4. Find out when you’re most efficient and do your material-screening then and there. (In other words, when are you NOT likely to put it off.) And

5. Make sure you get the dated info before it’s “dead in the water”. Finally, Jeff asks for your own revelations on this topic and promises not to treat your e-mail like so much info-overflow. To read more, or send in your own tips, go here: http://www.law.com/jsp/law/LawArticleFriendly.jsp?id=1202435478541


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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.


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

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Can Blogs And Social Media Alone Teach New Grads To Be Good Lawyers?

“It’s 10:00 p.m. … Do you know where your children are?” was a popular public service announcement in throughout the 1960s and 1970s. In 2011, the same question can be asked of young associates. It’s 10:00 p.m. … Do you know what your lawyers are up to?

Well, they’re blogging… and on facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter. In today’s new online world, the same predator targeting your children is now after your impressionable first-years. But when it comes to recent law school grads looking for guidance and mentorship, how harmful or beneficial is social media?

Kevin O’Keefe—ironically the author of Real Lawyers Have Blogs—claims social media puts high-quality work product and the clients it serves at risk. “I’m not including gaming Google as a skill you need to provide effective representation,” writes O’Keefe. “For those lawyers, blogging is putting a gun in a child’s hand. Clients who find those lawyers and don’t see through the charade may be in jeopardy.”

In a troubled economy, young lawyers are forced to resort to predominantly digital methods to find jobs, to obtain post-bar card training, and, in the total absence of employment, to market their services as an independent professional. Websites boasting legal advice, information databases, or other legal training are booming. Blogs posting various legal news and developments (like this one) are also popular. Access to information, however, also means access to misinformation. Social media connects people—and attorneys are no exception.

“I’m not sure we should blame a recent grad who cannot get a job in a law firm from reaching out to connect with more senior lawyers.” Instead of directing this public service announcement toward inattentive parents, the message is for distracted managing partners, reminding them that mentoring the younger generation means more than a few in-house CLE sessions or a tour of the law library.

“In the old days… We asked questions of our mentors—whether we called a partner a mentor or not. We got feedback on transactional docs we drafted and briefs and pleadings we crafted. We sat in on depositions and trials, hopefully getting thrown a bone by being allowed to take a witness while our mentor sat at counsel table in court or along side us in a conference room.”

In sum:

  1. Good firms implement training and mentorship programs so that first-year associates don’t have to resort to Google for answers.
  2. Good associates seek out advice from their peers and respect the experience of more senior attorneys. When no formal mentorship program is in place, young lawyers should not hesitate to visit the courthouse or ask questions of court clerks, call the lead counsel on the case or even the representatives at LexisNexis and Thomson-West.

At the same time, the study of law and the structure of law firms are two constantly evolving cogs in this venerable industry. Social media should not be seen as a negative addition to the more traditional aspects of law. Instead, social media can encourage young associates to connect with more experienced ones.

Blogs also keep attorneys apprised to important news and developments, which, thanks to instantaneous Internet communication, stay transparent. LinkedIn is still a premier networking tool for professionals. It provides an affordable means to market firm services, advertise job vacancies, and skim through the resumes of potential employees.

In addition, allowing associates to spend a few minutes a day browsing facebook feeds has been shown to alleviate stress and promote productivity (not to mention, giving you ample “likes” on your firm’s page). Finally, myriad court cases today involve e-discovery and investigation into social media. Having lawyers who are familiar with such sites is to your firm (and client’s) advantage.

Free-access information and information broadcasting over the Internet is a permanent addition to the practice of law. Rather than eschew social media, try embracing it with an official firm blog or twitter, state-of-the-art technology and computers, as well as an internal online chat forum. Whether digital or at a desk, mentorship and associate training, in any form, is key to law firm success.


Read other reactions to O’Keefe’s post at The Lawyerist.

Attend C4CM’s Social Media Policy Course on Thursday, June 9, 2:00 PM To 3:15 PM Eastern, called “Social Media Policy Dos and Don’ts: Employees, Networking Sites and the Law”


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