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New York Bar on LinkedIn, Lawyers, and “Specialties”

Stacked3This week's Daily Record column is entitled "New York Bar on LinkedIn, Lawyers, and “Specialties”." My past Daily Record articles can be accessed here.

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New York Bar on LinkedIn, Lawyers, and “Specialties”

LinkedIn, the “professional” social network, is the most popular social media site amongst lawyers, with over 98% of individual lawyers reporting that they use it according to the American Bar Association’s 2013 Legal Technology Survey. But, as if the case whenever lawyers do just about anything in their professional capacity, ethical issues can arise when lawyers interact on LinkedIn. 

In fact, for years now, legal ethicists have speculated that one aspect of LinkedIn profiles, the “specialties” field, creates a potential ethical dilemma for lawyers in most jurisdictions. Many have suggested that lawyers who list their areas of practice in that field arguably violate the ethical rules which prohibit lawyers from stating that they “specialize” in a particular area of law. 

Now that question has been answered for New York layers with the issuance of Op. 972 in June of this year--and it turns out that the concerns raised by the legal ethicists were valid. 

The specific question at issue in this opinion was: “When a lawyer or law firm provides certain kinds of legal services, and is listed on a social media site that includes a section labeled ‘Specialties,’ may the lawyer or law firm use that section to describe the kinds of services provided?”

In reaching its decision, the Committee on Professional Ethics first set forth Rule 7.4, which addresses the issue of statements that lawyers are permitted to make about their areas of practice. It provides: “A lawyer or law firm may publicly identify one or more areas of law in which the lawyer or the law firm practices, or may state that the practice of the lawyer or law firm is limited to one or more areas of law, provided that the lawyer or law firm shall not state that the lawyer or law firm is a specialist or specializes in a particular field of law, except as provided in Rule 7.4(c).” 

The Committee then explained that Rule 7.4(c) permits lawyers to state that they are specialists in a particular area of law, but only if certified as a specialist by an appropriate organization or governmental authority.

Next, the Committee applied these rules to the issue at hand to determine how lawyers and law firms can ethically utilize the “specialties” field on LinkedIn. 

First, the Committee concluded that although lawyers are permitted to identify areas of practice, only those certified as a specialist by an appropriate organization may list those areas in the “Specialties” field on LinkedIn: “If a lawyer has been certified as a specialist in a particular area of law or law practice by an organization or authority as provided in Rule 7.4(c), then the lawyer may so state if the lawyer complies with that Rule’s disclaimer provisions.”

However, the Committee noted that the exception set forth in Rule 7.4(c) applies only to individual lawyers and not law firms, and thus “Rule 7.4(c) does not provide that a law firm (as opposed to an individual lawyer) may claim recognition or certification as a specialist, and Rule 7.4(a) would therefore prohibit such a claim by a firm...”

Importantly, the Committee declined to address whether Rule 7.4 would be violated if “a lawyer or law firm could, consistent with Rule 7.4(a), list practice areas under other headings such as ‘Products & Services’ or ‘Skills and Expertise.’” As such, the ethics of doing so remains up in the air in New York and lawyers  and law firms would be wise to avoid listing their areas of practice under those sections of their LinkedIn profile.

Nicole Black is a Rochester, New York attorney and Director of Business Development and Community Relations at MyCase, an intuitive cloud-based law practice management platform for the modern law firm. She is also a GigaOM Pro Analyst and is the author of the ABA book Cloud Computing for Lawyers, co-authors the ABA book Social Media for Lawyers: the Next Frontier, and co-authors Criminal Law in New York, a West-Thomson treatise. She is the founder of lawtechTalk.com and speaks regularly at conferences regarding the intersection of law and technology. She publishes four legal blogs and can be reached at niki@mycase.com.


Lawyers’ use of mobile computing climbs in 2013

Stacked3This week's Daily Record column is entitled "Lawyers’ use of mobile computing climbs in 2013 ." My past Daily Record articles can be accessed here.

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Lawyers’ use of mobile computing climbs in 2013  

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Lawyers love their mobile devices!

But don’t just take my word on it. Instead, consider the results of the American Bar Association’s latest Legal Technology Survey Report, a multi-volume report which is issued annually and focuses on technology trends in the legal industry.

According to this year’s survey results, lawyers are using mobile devices more than ever. Not surprisingly, solo practitioners were the most likely to use mobile devices, with 85 percent reporting use of mobile devices in the law practices in 2013, up from 77 percent in 2012.

The most popular mobile device was a smartphone, with nearly 91 percent of lawyers reporting that they used them in their law practices, up from 89 percent last year.

Lawyers overwhelmingly preferred iPhones, with 62 percent of those lawyers surveyed reporting that they used an iPhone, up from 44 percent last year. Androids were the second most popular smartphone, with 22 percent of respondents using an Android phone.

Not surprisingly – especially in light of the recent news that the company that manufactures BlackBerry phones is seeking a new owner – BlackBerry use continued to decline, with only 6 percent of lawyers using them and only 1 percent using Windows Mobile.

Like smartphones, tablet use also increased at an impressive rate. Nearly half of all lawyers surveyed reported using tablets in their law practices, with 48 percent of lawyers now using tablets, up from 33 percent in 2012.

And, like smartphones, Apple is their brand of choice. In fact, 91 percent of lawyers who used tablets preferred the iPad – and of the 9 percent who didn’t use the iPad, more than half used an Android device.

In other words, lawyers are going mobile at an incredibly fast rate, especially when you consider the fact that the iPad was first released just three years’ ago and today nearly 50 percent of lawyers now use tablets in their law practice.

However, not all lawyers are taking appropriate steps to secure their mobile devices. For example, in 2013, not all lawyers password protected their devices, although 91 percent reported that they did, up from when only 89 percent last year.

Unfortunately, far fewer lawyers took the security precaution of enabling the remote wiping of their phones; only 25 percent enabled that feature in 2013. While not an impressive statistic, at least it represents an increase from 2012, when only 18% of lawyers reported enabling that feature.

So, what apps are lawyers using the most on their mobile devices? According to the survey, the most popular law-related apps used by lawyers were Fastcase (26.5 percent), Westlaw (7.7 percent), and Lexis (7.7 percent), and WestlawNext (7.3 percent). Other legal apps used by lawyers surveyed included the ABA Journal, LawStack, American Bar Association, Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, PLI and Lexis Advance.

The top three most-used non-legal apps lawyers reported using were: Dropbox (15.2 percent), Evernote (9.8 percent), and LinkedIn (8.6 percent). Other non-legal apps used by lawyers included Dragon Dictation, Documents to Go, the Wall Street Journal, PDF readers, and QuickOffice.

And, not surprisingly, since solo attorneys use mobile devices the most, they also download the most apps, with 43 percent reporting that they downloaded apps in 2013, up from 30 percent in 2012.

So there’s no question about it. Lawyers are embracing mobile computing more quickly than ever before.

But what about other types of technology? Well, the ABA survey covered that as well, so tune in next week to learn if lawyers are as receptive to using cloud computing in their law practices as they have been with mobile computing.


Nicole Black is a Rochester, New York attorney and Director of Business Development and Community Relations at MyCase, an intuitive cloud-based law practice management platform for the modern law firm. She is also a GigaOM Pro Analyst and is the author of the ABA book Cloud Computing for Lawyers, co-authors the ABA book Social Media for Lawyers: the Next Frontier, and co-authors Criminal Law in New York, a West-Thomson treatise. She is the founder of lawtechTalk.com and speaks regularly at conferences regarding the intersection of law and technology. She publishes four legal blogs and can be reached at niki@mycase.com.

Lawyers and their use of social media in 2013

Stacked3This week's Daily Record column is entitled "Lawyers and their use of social media in 2013 ." My past Daily Record articles can be accessed here.

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Lawyers and their use of social media in 2013  

Social media: Up until recently, most lawyers had little interest in it. Social media was deemed child’s play and irrelevant to the practice of law. So, although I’ve been writing about its relevance to the legal field for years now, including my 2010 ABA-published book “Social Media for Lawyers,” in the past, my assertions often fell on deaf ears.

In recent years, however, that trend has slowly, but surely begun to change. As social media affects their client’s cases and is increasingly used as evidence in court, lawyers are finally beginning to sit up and take notice of this Internet-based phenomenon that is now intertwined with many aspects of our lives.

It’s no surprise, then, that the findings from the ABA’s recently released 2013 Legal Technology Survey (online: http://tinyurl.com/2013abatechsurvey) indicate that lawyers are using social media tools more than ever before, with solos and small firms leading the way.  Even so, lawyers’ use of social media is growing at a slower rate than that of the general population. Nevertheless, the increasing use is a step in the right direction.

For starters, more lawyers are engaging on social networks than in 2012, with LinkedIn interaction by law firms leading the way. According to the ABA’s report, 56 percent of law firms surveyed now have a LinkedIn presence, whereas in 2011, only 37 percent reported using LinkedIn. Individual lawyers are flocking to LinkedIn as well, with 98 percent reporting LinkedIn use, compared to only 62 percent in 2011.

Facebook ranks second, with 35 percent of law firms surveyed reporting that their firms have a Facebook presence. In 2011, only 19 percent used Facebook for professional purposes. Individually, 33 percent of responding lawyers reported using Facebook, up from 22 percent in 2011. So, again, that’s a large increase over a two-year time period.

Next up, Twitter. While Twitter use by the general population is increasing exponentially, according to the ABA survey, far fewer lawyers participate on Twitter. Nevertheless, even though it’s a less popular social network for lawyers, its use also increased, with 19 percent of survey respondents reporting that their firms used Twitter in 2013, compared to a mere 7 percent in 2011. And in 2013, 14 percent of lawyers reported using Twitter whereas in 2011, only 6 percent of individual lawyers interacted on Twitter.

Another interesting finding from the survey is that blogging is on the rise, with more lawyers maintaining a blog for professional purposes than ever before. Blogging has been around for far longer than social media, so it simply makes sense that lawyers are more comfortable with it. After all, it’s more familiar, not to mention that effective blogging also showcases an attorney’s writing abilities and analytical thinking skills.

Of course, blogging also takes up substantially more time than other type of online interaction, so the number of lawyers who actually blog is smaller than those who use social networks.

So, how many lawyers are blogging in 2013? According to the report, more firms are blogging than individual lawyers. So, in 2013, 27 percent of law firms maintained blogs, up from 15 percent in 2011, while only 9 percent of individual lawyers maintained professional blogs in 2013.

All in all, the findings from the ABA’s 2013 Legal Technology Survey were both enlightening and encouraging. As I’ve been saying for years now, social media is here to stay. It’s now a permanent part of our culture and as a result it’s important for lawyers to understand social media in order to more effectively represent their clients. Engaging in social media is one of the best ways to have a complete understanding of the different platforms, so for that reason alone, it’s nice to see that the numbers of lawyers interacting online are increasing every year.


Nicole Black is a Rochester, New York attorney and Director of Business Development and Community Relations at MyCase, an intuitive cloud-based law practice management platform for the modern law firm. She is also a GigaOM Pro Analyst and is the author of the ABA book Cloud Computing for Lawyers, co-authors the ABA book Social Media for Lawyers: the Next Frontier, and co-authors Criminal Law in New York, a West-Thomson treatise. She is the founder of lawtechTalk.com and speaks regularly at conferences regarding the intersection of law and technology. She publishes four legal blogs and can be reached at niki@mycase.com.