Lawyers Get Creative With Use of Social Media
As we near the end of 2013, most lawyers understand the reach and staying power of social media, even if they’re not using it in their law practices. And those that don’t yet have a full understanding of how the main social media platforms work are doing a disservice to their clients.
That being said, those lawyers who continue to ignore the impact of social media are in the minority and most have figured out how social media works and are finding creative ways to use social media to accomplish their goals. And, the goals can be many, with the most common ones being marketing a law practice, obtaining evidence in a case, and researching social media for information on jurors. But lawyers are using social media in other ways, too, both in support of clients’ cases--and in support of an ill colleague.
Let’s start with the former and turn to a recent ethics decision, Opinion 977, issued by the New York State Bar Association’s Committee on Professional Ethics. In this case, a New York attorney sought to use social media in a very creative way: he represented a client in an administrative proceeding and sought to distribute an online petition and survey in support of the client’s case.
Specifically, the attorney was defending his client in a cancellation proceeding before the U.S. Trademark Trial and Appeal Board. The lawyer asked if he could ethically: 1) distribute a link to the client’s online petition (designed to garner opposition to the cancellation) via Facebook and Twitter, assuming he simply advised readers of the link but didn’t actually ask them to sign it, and 2) post an online survey asking readers whether they found the two trademarks confusingly similar.
The Committee’s answer? That doing so was ethically permissible in most cases. “A lawyer representing a client in a trademark cancellation proceeding may use social media to distribute a link to an online petition in support of the client’s case, and may post an online survey, where there is no substantial likelihood that the petition or survey would materially prejudice the upcoming administrative adjudication.”
Now let’s head south to Miami, where the law firm of GrayRobinson used social media in an even more creative--and incredibly altruistic--way. Upon learning that one of their partners, Philippe Devé, had been diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia, the law firm launched a social media campaign in an effort to find a bone marrow donor match for Devé, an only child with elderly parents.
As many as eighty people appeared in person at the Miami offices of GrayRobinson to be tested as donors. In addition, hundreds of people across the country responded, volunteering to be tested. All with the help of social media and lawyers thinking outside the box.
So, it would seem that the times truly are a’changing. No longer are lawyers ignoring the impact of social media and refusing to acknowledge its existence. Quite the contrary. Instead, lawyers from coast to coast are harnessing the power of social media and creatively using it to positively affect their clients’ cases--and the world around them. We’ve come a long way in just a few short years and I, for one, can’t wait to see what will happen next!
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.