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Social media, lawyers and tracking what’s next

Stacked3This week's Daily Record column is entitled "Social media, lawyers and tracking what’s next." My past Daily Record articles can be accessed here.

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Social media, lawyers and tracking what’s next

By now, you’ve probably realized the importance of gaining an understanding of the fundamentals of social media, even if you don’t plan on using social media on a regular basis. This is because, as I’ve often discussed in the past, social media now affects all aspects of our lives and the practice of law.

For starters, it’s affecting the outcomes of cases, whether it’s lawyers using social media evidence to support their client’s case or jurors using social media to discuss evidence during trials despite judicial orders forbidding that very act. And, many lawyers are now using social media to connect with colleagues, showcase their expertise and promote their law practices.

So, the bottom line — social media is here to stay. It’s not going anywhere.

That being said, it’s in a constant state of flux. New platforms emerge everyday and become popular almost overnight. So needless to say, it’s often a chore in and of itself to stay current on the latest and greatest in social media.

The trick is to look at three different subsets of the population. First, there are non-digital natives, which I would classify as those who are older than 27 years of age. Then there are the digital natives with access to smartphones, often those between 13 and 27. And then there are the digital natives who only have access to computers and tablets, those between 3 and 13.

Now you might wonder why I’m even bothering to mention the habits of young kids in an article targeted toward legal professionals. The reason is that these children are quickly shaping social media — and they’re doing so completely under the radar. But their choices will profoundly affect the future of social media. Let me explain.

First, let’s look at the non-digital natives. Most of us are on Facebook, many of us who work outside the home are on LinkedIn, and some are using Twitter. We’re prefer the established social networks because we’re slow to adapt to new platforms.

The non-digital natives between 13 and 27 are leaving Facebook in droves, since their parents — and even grandparents — have now taken over that platform. So instead, as is often widely discussed the media, this segment of the population is now using Twitter and Tumblr, in addition to more visual apps such as Snapchat, Vine and Instagram. The vast majority of their social media interactions occur using their smartphones, which is why the apps are such a popular way to interact.

So what are kids without access to smartphones doing? This is where things get really interesting and it’s a topic that is rarely addressed by the media or elsewhere. Most of them have access to computers and tablets, which their parents often monitor. That’s one reason the Kindle Fire is a popular tablet choice for kids — it has built in parental controls. But even with parental controls, these kids find ways to interact — often using routes which were never intended for real-time interaction.

For example, my 11 year old reads books on her Kindle and when she finishes a book, she’s prompted to review the book and join a discussion about the book. In that discussion area, the kids are now role playing. In other words, they are each “playing” the part of an animal character from the book — often a fantasy novel. This, even though the discussion area was never intended to be used for real-time, interactive conversations and often crashes due to the sheer volume of postings.

From there, these kids then move online — to Google Plus! This social network has been — and continues to be — deemed a “failure” by technology writers, but I believe it is the social network of the future because it’s where the true digital natives are now interacting.

How exactly do they have access to Google Plus, you ask? Because of Gmail. You see, most kids who are of middle school age often create their very first email account. (In case you’re wondering, I monitor my daughter’s Gmail account and every email received comes to my iPhone). And once these kids set up a Gmail account, they are prompted to set up a Google Plus account. And the rest, as they say, is history.

Once they graduate to phones, I strongly suspect that Google Plus will be so familiar to them and they’ll have such strong networks established, that they’ll stay on Google Plus — accessing it from mobile devices — and supplementing their interactions with other social media apps.

So, keep an eye on these kids. Their habits are flying under the radar but I believe that they will truly shape the future — both of social media and the business world. And as we all know by now — the legal profession won’t be immune, so stay tuned.

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.


California court: Lawyers can post case info in blogs

Stacked3This week's Daily Record column is entitled "California court: Lawyers can post case info in blogs." My past Daily Record articles can be accessed here.

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Blogging — it’s been around for years now, but lawyers are only recently starting to warm up to the idea of posting about legal issues and case-related information online. Not surprisingly, as more lawyers begin to blog and share information online, issues regarding the ethics of lawyers doing so have begun to crop up.

 

So, for example, last month I discussed New York State Bar Ethics Opinion 967, where the Ethics Committee concluded that New York lawyer advertising rules are not triggered when lawyers blog about legal issues with the primary goal of providing educational content, rather than encouraging potential clients to retain the lawyer’s services.

 

I also discussed a similar issue earlier this year when I wrote about a Virginia decision, Horace Frazier Hunter v. Record No. 121472. In that case, the Virginia Supreme Court held that not only can Virginia lawyers ethically blog about their cases, they can even list the names of their clients when doing so, as long as their blog includes an appropriate disclaimer. Importantly, the court held that Hunter’s posts were protected by the First Amendment, while also concluding that the bar could regulate the speech and require disclaimers, since the speech had the potential to be misleading.

 

Into the fray comes a new California case which also addressed free speech issues and considered whether a trial court’s order requiring an attorney to remove pages from her law firm’s website was unconstitutional. At issue were postings regarding her prior court successes against the defendants in the case at hand.

 

The defendants, Volkswagen Motor Company and Ford Motor Company, moved for an order requiring her to remove the postings, alleging that the “plainly provocative and prejudicial information should not intentionally be prominently displayed on the Internet, by the parties or their counsel in this case during trial. That will obviously prejudice the jury process during the trial and deliberations in this case, if it is encountered by a juror.”

 

The trial court agreed and ordered plaintiff’s counsel to remove the pages touting her victories from her website. The Second District Court of Appeal of California disagreed, holding that the trial court’s order constituted an unlawful prior restraint on her free speech rights:

 

“The trial court properly admonished the jurors not to Google the attorneys and also instructed them not to conduct independent research. We accept that jurors will obey such admonitions. (NBC Subsidiary, supra, 20 Cal.4th at pp. 1223-1224.) It is a belief necessary to maintain some balance with the greater mandate that speech shall be free and unfettered. If a juror ignored these admonitions, the court had tools at its disposal to address the issue. It did not, however, have authority to impose, as a prophylactic measure, an order requiring Farrise to remove pages from her law firm website to ensure they would be inaccessible to a disobedient juror.”

 

So, it would seem that as blogging and online publishing become more commonplace, decisions limiting lawyers’ use of online publishing tools are beginning to fade away. Instead, we are increasingly seeing the courts issue measured, well  thought out decisions based on analysis of the core content being shared rather than knee jerk reactions to emerging technology intended to dissuade lawyers from utilizing Web-based publishing. It’s encouraging to see this more liberal trend and gives me high hopes for the future of our profession.


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, technology and a light at the end of the tunnel

Stacked3This week's Daily Record column is entitled "Lawyers, technology and a light at the end of the tunnel." My past Daily Record articles can be accessed here.

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Lawyers, technology and a light at the end of the tunnel

For years now, I’ve been writing about the intersection of technology and the legal profession. And for years now, I’ve urged lawyers to learn about emerging technologies. My belief has always been that it’s the dawn of a new age — one where cloud and mobile technologies have the potential to save lawyers time and money, allowing them to focus more on representing their clients and less on administrative functions.

Unfortunately, our profession as a whole has been slow to respond to my rallying cry. While small sub-groups of lawyers are incredibly tech-savvy, many lawyers continue to practice law as if it were still 1999.

So earlier this week, when I attended a New York State Bar Association Appellate Law CLE, I was dismayed at the very outset when I noted that I was the only attendee — out of approximately 100 — who was using a laptop. And of the remaining lawyers, only a handful were using tablet computers.

What little faith I had in my profession’s ability to change with the times was reduced substantially and I reluctantly resigned myself to the idea that 2013 was apparently not the year that Upstate New York lawyers saw the light.

And then, at the end of the day, everything changed.

It started when New York Court of Appeals Judge Eugene Pigott took the podium to offer appellate practice tips. I’ve heard Judge Pigott speak on a number of occasions and he’s always entertaining and down to earth and this talk was no exception. But what took me by complete surprise was when he encouraged attendees to check out the Court of Appeal’s website and then listed all of the information that could be found on it, including webcasts of oral arguments, transcripts of oral arguments, court forms, e-filing capabilities, and even appellate briefs. His inclusion of this information in his presentation gave me hope and made me wonder if perhaps there was a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel after all.

But what happened next took me completely by surprise: ex-New York Court of Appeals Judge and now Federal Second Circuit Judge Richard Wesley began his presentation. At first, it seemed like a rather typical — and very helpful — presentation on various tips for appellate attorneys. And then suddenly he veered into a side discussion of the benefits of iPads. You heard me correctly: iPads!

He explained that he takes his iPad everywhere and that he and all of the other Second Circuit judges use iPads on the bench. On the bench! And that he converted everyone at a judicial retreat last year — even the 80-year old judges. He advised us that during oral arguments, the judges access Westlaw right from their iPads and also have PDFs of the briefs in front of them with hyperlnks to the cited cases. On their iPads! On the bench!

After his talk, I approached him and asked him to share more about his iPad use. His eyes lit up and he held out his iPad (housed in a black leather case with built-in Bluetooth keyboard, in case you were wondering). “It’s the best!” he said. “Look I can access my entire docket right now! See? Each case is listed and then I can access all the documents in the cloud — right here on my iPad! And when I read briefs, I type notes in the margins and then send it off to my law clerks. It’s great! I can work from wherever I happen to be!”

At this point I was beside myself. I mean, I couldn’t have scripted this better if I’d tried! And this, from a federal court judge no less. But, even though I knew I should just call it a day and walk away before something happened to ruin this perfect moment, I had to know what app he used to annotate his PDFs. I figured it had to be one of the clunkier ones — probably Adobe’s more conventional app. After all, he was a federal court judge — I mean, how tech-savvy could he be?

“I use PDF Expert,” he replied. “It’s the best app. I initially used another one, but it just wasn’t as full-featured and intuitive.”

I couldn’t believe it! He used my PDF-annotation app of choice! I was nearly speechless at this point. But somehow, I managed to I pull myself together, thanked him for his great talk, and told him how impressed I was with his tech-savviness. And then, as I walked away, he left me with these parting words “I love my iPad! It’s made me so much more productive!”

I had to pinch myself. Was I dreaming? Had my profession finally turned the corner? And what in the world was that blinding light before my eyes? Either I was about to pass out, or maybe — just maybe — that light at the end of the tunnel that I’d been convinced was an oncoming train was actually, at long last, daylight!

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.