Previous month:
May 2009
Next month:
July 2009

Five Things Lawyers Should Know About Social Media

Drlogo11

This week's Daily Record column is entitled "Five Things Lawyers Should Know About Social Media."

A pdf of the article can be found here and my past Daily Record articles can be accessed here.

*****
“[S]ocial media is a shift in how people discover, read and share news, information and content. It’s a fusion of sociology and technology, transforming monologues (one to many) into dialogues (many to many) and is the democratization of information, transforming people from content readers into publishers. Social media has become extremely popular because it allows people to connect in the online world to form relationships for personal, political and business use. Businesses also refer to social media as user-generated content (UGC) or consumer-generated media (CGM).”

— WIKIPEDIA ENTRY FOR SOCIAL MEDIA

Online interaction is now commonplace. Networking sites, including Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, are becoming mainstream. Opportunities for attorneys to connect and interact with potential clients are endless.

Before jumping on the “social media” bandwagon, however, there are a few important things about social media that lawyers must comprehend. The failure to do so will result in unsuccessful and disappointing forays into the online marketplace.

Social media is useless without goals

Come up with a plan, then interact online.

Is your goal to appear higher in search engine results, showcase a particular area of expertise, or interact with other attorneys in the same practice area? Would you like to target local or national clientele?

The answers to those questions necessarily affect your overall social media strategy.

Learn about social media. Figure out how it works and how it can work for you. Then, implement a social media strategy that promotes your goals. Be patient. Results don’t occur overnight.

Different social media sites serve different purposes

An entire firm does not need to actively participate in social media, but a few lawyers should be familiar with emerging Web 2.0 technologies and the ways in which those technologies can help and harm a firm’s bottom line.

At the very least, all members of a firm should have online profiles which include their areas of practice posted at LinkedIn, Justia and Avvo. It’s free to create profiles at those sites, and doing so allows you to piggyback on the SEO (search
engine optimization) of large, established sites.

Facebook is another site to consider. It allows lawyers to re-connect with people they’ve lost touch with, opening up an entire network of potential client and referrers.

If a lawyer enjoys writing and is passionate about a particular area of the law, blogging is the perfect way to showcase the lawyer’s expertise and writing skills,
while simultaneously increasing SEO (due to the unique characteristics of blogs) and humanizing the attorney.

Twitter is ideal for lawyers seeking to expand their national network, increase their exposure and connect with influential people in all major industries.

Lawyers don’t have to participate in every form of online interaction, but one way or another, participate and ensure the chosen forums promote the firm’s overall goals.

‘Social media’ is a misnomer

Some lawyers discount the potential of “social media” due to the incorrect assumption that it’s got nothing to do with business and is all about socializing. This is a serious mistake.

All online interactions, whether they are with other lawyers, old friends, or people you’ve just met and with whom you share a similar interest have the potential to benefit your career.

Social and professional networking necessarily overlap. A person’s interests are not limited to their profession unless, of course, the person is an unbelievably one dimensional and boring human being.

People are more than their careers. Lawyers are more than their law firms. Which brings me to my next point:

People want to hire other people, not businesses

While it is important to have a static website for your business, it is equally important for lawyers to cultivate a uniquely individual online presence as well.

The best way to do this it to take off your “lawyer hat”. Talk to people, not at them. Interact, don’t advertise. And, most importantly, share a little bit about yourself and your interests.

It is the overlap between the social and the professional that makes a lawyer more likeable, more approachable and more human.

People want to pick up the phone and call a specific person —not an intimidating, faceless entity —when they have a problem. Large businesses hire law firms; people hire other people.

Lawyers cannot afford to be left out of the loop

Attorneys who successfully leverage social media tools to communicate, collaborate and network have a distinct advantage over those who don’t.

Stand out from the crowd. Use online resources to your advantage. Take advantage of the opportunity to interact with potential clients and referral sources.

Be patient, persistent and positive. Use social media wisely and narrowly tailor your online activities toward the pursuit of specific goals.

Take my advice and you will see results. I guarantee it.


NYC Panel on Corporate Fraud

For my NYC readers, there's an interesting (and free) panel that you might be interested in attending on July 16, 2009 from 8:30-9 at Eisner LLP, 750 Third Avenue
Between 46th and 47th Streets:

Tracking Fraud: Trends & Innovations 2009


This panel will discuss the latest trends and developments in fighting fraud on and incorporate and enterprise level. It's an essential topic for anyone with fiduciary responsibilities at any level. The panel is comprised of those dealing with fraud and financial security and compliance on a daily basis. Madoff was first. What's next?

Panelists Include

Joanna Chung US Finance Correspondent, The Financial Times

Art Middlemiss JP Morgan Chase

Walter Pagano Partner-in-Charge, Litigation Consulting & Forensic Accounting Group, Eisner LLP

Shawn Polonet Supervisory Special Agent, Department of Homeland Security, ICE

Robert Strang CEO, Investigative Management Group

Date
July 16, 2009

Time
8:00am-9:30am

Location

Registration is Complimentary
Gothammediaventures

 

Advance RSVP Required
Seating is Limited


The Court of Appeals "gets it" when it comes to technology

Drlogo11

This week's Daily Record column is entitled "The Court of Appeals "gets it" when it comes to technology."

A pdf of the article can be found  and my past Daily Record articles can be accessed here.

*****

It is indisputable that technology is changing the world and the practice of law. Technological advances have increased our ability to rapidly disseminate information, and lawyers and non-lawyers alike have used this to their benefit. 

Of course the Internet is the obvious medium that comes to mind, but the advent of the fax machine was the beginning of a revolution in the rapid exchange of information. 

For years now, lawyers have used the fax machine to communicate and to conduct business. 

One lawyer’s creative attempt to use this medium to share information with other lawyers resulted in a lawsuit against him that ended up before the New York Court of Appeals.

From 2003 to 2005, Andrew Lavoot Bluestone, a New York attorney and law blogger (New York Attorney Malpractice Blog, http://blog.bluestonelawfirm.com) who represents plaintiffs in attorney malpractice matters, used fax machines to distribute an “Attorney Malpractice Report” to other attorneys. The reports included short essays regarding attorney malpractice issues and included his firm’s contact information and Web site addresses.

An attorney who had received a number of these reports commenced a lawsuit against Bluestone alleging viola- tions of Telephone Consumer Protection Act of (TCPA) 1991.

Bluestone was represented on appeal by attorney Scott Greenfield, author of the well-read blog Simple Justice (http://blog.simplejustice.us).

Last fall, the Third Department concluded that Bluestone’s faxes violated theTCPA:  “While Bluestone contends that his faxes were purely informational and do not explicitly offer services, his position defies common sense. The faxes at issue certainly have the purpose and effect of influencing recipients to procure Bluestone’s services, which are for the specialized field of legal malpractice claims.” Stern v. Bluestone, 47 AD3d 576 (Third Dept. 2008).

However, last week, the New York State Court of Appeals over- turned the Third Department’s ruling concluding that the primary purpose of the faxed reports was informational rather than promotional:  “We conclude that Bluestone’s ‘Attorney Malpractice Report’ fits the FCC’s framework for an ‘informational message.’ … In
these reports, Bluestone furnished information about attorney malpractice lawsuits; the substantive content varied from issue to issue; and the reports did not promote commercial products. To the extent that Bluestone may have devised the reports as a way to impress other attorneys with his legal expertise and gain referrals, the faxes may be said to contain, at most, ‘[a]n incidental advertisement’ of his services, which ‘does not convert the entire communication into an advertisement’ (Id.).” Stern v. Bluestone, 2009 NY Slip Op 04740 (2009).

This is an important decision for New York law bloggers, whose numbers have increased exponentially since I began blogging in 2005. Although the court’s
decision was limited to its interpretation of certain provisions of the TCPA, its rationale applies equally to the vast majority of law blogs.

The primary purpose of most law blogs is the dissemination of information. Like Bluestone’s “Attorney Malpractice Report,” blogs educate the reader about a
subject matter that is unrelated to the self-promotion of the blogger.

Certainly increased visibility of the blogger is a byproduct of the publication of a successful blog; and as a result of that visibility, new clients may follow.

But, that doesn’t mean that the primary purpose of the blog is the retention of clients.

In comparison, I think that most people would agree that the primary purpose of television and radio ads, billboard ads, professional Web sites and yellow page ads is the retention of clients. Blogs are different because the primary purpose of blogs
—sharing information —is separate and distinct from the self-promotion that is the essential element of most advertisements. 

Thankfully, the court’s decision in Stern v. Bluestone is a strong indication that the highest court in New York understands this distinction. The court understands that lawyers’ creative use of emerging Internet technologies is, in many instances, simply an extension of traditional networking activities, including speaking at a seminar, authoring an article in a legal publication, distributing a newsletter via e-mail or joining a committee at the local bar association.

It’s good to know that the highest court in New York “gets it.”

Do you?


The New York Legal Blog Round Up

Blawgs It's Monday and time for the weekly round up of posts from my fellow New York law bloggers:

Art Law:

Juz The Fax:

New York Public Personnel Law:

Rochester Family Lawyer:

The Sienko Law Office Blog:

Wait a Second!:


New York Legal News Round Up

Latest_news It's Wednesday and time for the weekly round up of New York law-related new headlines:


Curfew Fails Abused Children

Drlogo11

This week's Daily Record column is entitled "Curfew Fails Abused Children."

A pdf of the article can be found here and my past Daily Record articles can be accessed here.

*****

The Rochester youth curfew was defeated once again last week when the New York State Court of Appeals issued its decision in Jiovon Anonymous v. City of Rochester.

At issue in the case was the legality of the youth curfew law, which became effective September 2006. The ordinance made it unlawful for those younger than 17 to be in a public place Sun- days through Thursdays between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m.,
and between 12 and 5 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays.

A minor accused of violating curfew could taken into custody immediately, and a conviction of the ordinance constituted a “violation,” as defined in the Penal Law,
punishable by a sentence of up to 15 days in jail.

The court limited its review to the constitutional issues raised on appeal and concluded that intermediate scrutiny, rather than strict scrutiny, was the appropriate level of analysis. Thus, in order to prevail, the City of Rochester was required to show that the curfew ordinance was “substantially related” to the achievement of “important” government interests.

The court applied the test to the constitutional claims of both the minors and parents affected by the law and determined that the Appellate Division, Fourth Department concluded correctly that Rochester’s curfew law was unconstitutional.

The court emphasized that the city failed to offer sufficient evidence to establish that the imposition of a curfew significantly reduced juvenile crime or victimization: “Without support from the City’s own empirical data, we conclude that the justifications made by the Mayor and the Chief of Police for the nighttime curfew, based primarily on opinions, are insufficient since they do not show a substantial relationship between the curfew and goals of reducing juvenile crime and victimization during nighttime hours.”

Similarly, the court concluded that the curfew law impermissibly interfered with parental due process rights, arguably interfering with stated goal of promoting parental supervision rather than supporting it: The “curfew ‘does not allow an adult to pre-approve even a specific activity after curfew hours unless a custodial adult actually accompanies the minor. Thus, parents cannot allow their children to function independently at night, which some parents may believe is part of the process of growing up’ (Nunez, 11 F3d at 952). Consequently, we conclude that the
challenged curfew is not substantially related to the stated goals of promoting parental supervision.”

The court then implied that the law would have had a better chance of passing constitutional muster if it had included a parental consent exception.

As I’ve noted in the past, my concern with youth curfews is that they effectively prevent children from escaping traumatic home environments. The inherent assumption behind curfews is that all guardians are caring, selfless and emotionally stable individuals.

Unfortunately, that is not always the case. For children with drug-addicted or abusive guardians, their homes are anything but safe. In many cases, the safest recourse for these children is to go elsewhere; sometimes the street simply is the safest alternative.

Arguably, curfew laws that include a parental consent exception at least provide a  neglected child with some flexibility, since it’s safe to assume that drug-addicted or otherwise neglectful parents are more than happy to have their children out of their sight.

The parental consent exception does little to protect the well being of abused children, however, since many abusers refuse to allow their child to leave the home. The home is the abuser’s playground and the child is their toy.

Any type of curfew law, then, is harmful to abused children. Such laws effectively imprison children in their abuser’s lair, actually encouraging —rather than preventing —victimization.

Any initiative that results in harm to a percentage of the population it is intended to protect is a failure.

Accordingly, rather than appealing the Court of Appeal’s decision or attempting to amend the curfew law, the city should simply abandon its failed initiative.


The New York Legal Blog Round Up

Blawgs It's time for the weekly round up of interesting posts from my fellow New York law bloggers:

New York Attorney Malpractice Blog:

New York Criminal Defense Blog:

New York Legal Update:

New York Personal Injury Law Blog:

Second Opinions:

Wait a Second!:


Free Screencast- "Web-based Law Practice Management Systems"

Lawtechtalk4 For a limited time, the 3rd episode of lawtechTalk, "Web-based law practice management systems" can be viewed for FREE.

This screencast (a recording of computer screen output along with video of me discussing what is seen) will focus on three web-based law practice management systems.  We'll discuss the concepts of SaaS (software as a service) and "cloud computing" and will explore the main features of  each to help you figure out which will best meet your needs.

This screencast is a little under one hour long and is sponsored by the three SaaS (software as a service) companies featured in the screencast: Clio, LawRD, and Rocket Matter and will be available for viewing at no cost until Sunday June 14thSimply contact lawtechTalk for information regarding how to access this screencast.