Weblogs

Lawyers and Social Media in 2017

Stacked3Here is this week's Daily Record column. My past Daily Record articles can be accessed here.

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Social media has been around for more than a decade. At first lawyers ignored social media, but over time, as it infiltrated our culture, they sat up and took notice. Today, more lawyers than ever use social media. Some use it for networking and marketing, while others interact online to showcase their expertise or gather valuable evidence and information to support their practices, among other reasons.

Regardless of how or why lawyers use social media, the statistics from the 2017 American Bar Association’s Legal Technology Survey Report show that, generally speaking, the number of lawyers using social media has increased year over year, which is in line with the increase in the use of social media by the general population as a whole.

For starters, the use of blogs by law firms is increasing, with large firms leading the way. 71% of firms with 500 or more attorneys maintain at least one blog (compared with 60% in 2016, 58% in 2015, and 62% in 2014), as do 71% of firms with 100-499 attorneys (compared with 52% in 2016, 53% in 2015, and 47% in 2014). Mid-sized firms with 10-49 attorneys were next at 38%, followed by small firms with 2-9 lawyers at 25%, and solo law firms at 15%. The practice areas within firms that were most likely to maintain a blog were employment and labor law at 33%, personal injury law at 32%, and litigation at 31%.

When it came to lawyers who personally maintained a blog for professional reasons, however, the numbers were flipped. Solo lawyers led the way: 15% of solo lawyers blogged, followed by 11% of lawyers from firms of 2-9 lawyers, 11% of lawyers from firms of 100 or more attorneys, and 10% of lawyers from firms of 10-49 attorneys. Of those lawyers, 43% have had a client retain their services because of their blogging efforts.

Moving on to social media, 77% of lawyers surveyed indicated that their firms maintained a social media presence. And, 81% of lawyers reported that they personally used social media for professional purposes.
Interestingly, the age group of lawyers most likely to maintain a personal presence on social media was 40-49 years olds (93%), followed by 40 and under (90%), 50-59 (86%), and 60 or older (73%). Lawyers with the following practice areas were most likely to personally use social media: employment/labor (89%), personal injury (84%), litigation (84%), commercial law (82%), and contracts (81%).

The most popular social network used by lawyers for professional purposes was LinkedIn, with 90% of lawyers reporting that they maintained a profile. Next was Facebook at 40% and then Twitter at 26%. Two lawyer directories were included in the Report, Martindale and Avvo, with only 21% of lawyers reporting that they used each platform.

Of those lawyers who maintained a personal presence on social media, 27% have had a client retain their legal services directly or via referral as a result of their use of social media. Solo and small firms lawyers were the most likely to be retained due to their social media presence. Lawyers in firms of 2-9 lawyers came in first in this regard at 33%, followed by solo lawyers (32%), then lawyers from firms of 10-49 lawyers (22%), and finally lawyers from firms of 100 or more lawyers (18%).

All in all, this year’s report provided lots of interesting data about lawyers’ social media use. Whether you’re a solo lawyer or are part of a much larger law firm, social media can be a valuable tool. My hope is that some of the statistics above will help guide you in making the best use of social networking. The trick is to use social media wisely, and ensure that the time you spend interacting online is both efficient and effective.

 

Nicole Black is a Rochester, New York attorney, author, journalist, and the Legal Technology Evangelist at MyCase, intuitive web-based law practice management software for solo and small law firms. She is also 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 can be reached at niki@mycase.com.


Washington Bar Association allows virtual law offices

Stacked3Here is this week's Daily Record column. My past Daily Record articles can be accessed here.

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Washington Bar Association Allows Virtual Law Offices

The Washington State Bar Association wasn’t the first bar to consider the ethics of lawyers practicing law from virtual law offices and it won’t be the last. It did, however, write one of the more sensible opinions on this phenomenon, Advisory Opinion 201601.

The reasonable tone was set from the very outset, when the Committee on Professional Ethics explained that the phenomenon of lawyers practicing law from outside of their offices was not a new one and was simply a sign of changing times: “Increasing costs of doing business, including the costs associated with physical office space, have motivated lawyers to rethink how they deliver legal services. Many lawyers are choosing to do some or all of their work remotely, from home or other remote locations. Advances in the reliability and accessibility of on-line resources, cloud computing, and email services have allowed the development of the virtual law office, in which the lawyer does not maintain a physical office at all. Although this modern business model may appear radically different from the traditional brick and mortar law office model, the underlying principles of an ethical law practice remain the same.”

Next, the Committee turned to the requirement in some jurisdictions that a law firm must have a physical office address, noting that Washington has no such rule. And, unlike some other states, there is no need for Washington lawyers to include a physical address on lawyer advertising, “(a)s long as it is not deceptive or misleading…(a) lawyer may use a post office box, private mail box, or a business service center as an office address in advertisements.” Similarly, lawyers must also refrain form misleading colleagues and others - through communications or otherwise - into believing that the lawyer is part of a brick and mortar firm.

The Committee then moved on to addressing the ethics of virtual lawyers storing all firm data online, such as in a legal practice management system, and concluded that lawyers may ethically store confidential client data online “as long as the lawyer takes reasonable care to ensure that the information will remain confidential and the information is secure from risk of loss.”

Factors that the Committee suggested lawyers take into consideration when using cloud computing software in their virtual law firm included:

Lawyers have a duty of general technology competence
Lawyers must thoroughly vet cloud computing vendors to ensure data is stored securely
Lawyers must ensure that there are sufficient data backup procedures in place
The agreement with the vendor should ensure that lawyers area able to retrieve law firm data in a readable format and that it includes breach notification clauses
Because technology can change quickly, lawyers have a continuing duty to monitor and review the adequacy of the vendor’s security procedures.

Importantly, the Committee acknowledged that in 2017, due to technology advancements, including secure online client portals, email is not necessarily the best way for lawyers to communicate with clients, regardless of whether the law firm has a virtual office or a brick and mortar office. Like the American Bar Association (in Formal Opinion 11-459) and the Texas Bar (in Ethics Opinion 648), the Committee warned against using email in some cases: “Lawyers in virtual practices may be more likely to communicate with clients by email. As discussed in WSBA Advisory Opinion 2175 (2008), lawyers may communicate with clients by email. However, if the lawyer believes there is a significant risk that a third party will access the communications, such as when the client is using an employer-provided email account, the lawyer has an obligation to advise the clients of the risks of such communication.”

In other words, the Committee issued a well reasoned opinion that acknowledged the rapid pace of technological change. As such, its determinations include elastic standards that will no doubt withstand the test of time. Well done Washington State Bar Association! Let’s hope other bars that have not yet addressed these issues will follow in your footsteps.

Nicole Black is a Rochester, New York attorney and the Legal Technology Evangelist at MyCase, intuitive web-based law practice management software for the modern law firm. She is also 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 Bar on the ethics of blogging

Stacked3Here is this week's Daily Record column. My past Daily Record articles can be accessed here.

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California Bar on the ethics of blogging

Blogs have been around for over a decade now and lawyers have been blogging from the very start. That’s why it’s so surprising that many state ethics committees have yet to weigh in on the ethical issues lawyers encounter when blogging.

For example, the issue of whether a lawyer blog constitutes attorney advertising had not been addressed in California until Formal Opinion 2016-196 was recently issued in final. At issue in that opinion was whether and under what circumstances blogging by an attorney constituted a “communication,” and was thus subject to attorney advertising regulations.

In this opinion, the Standing Committee on Professional Responsibility and Conduct of the State Bar of California opined that most law blogs did not constitute content subject to attorney advertising rules, with a few caveats.

First, the Committee concluded that, regardless of the nature of the content of the blog posts, all lawyer blogs that were integrated within a law firm’s professional website necessarily constituted lawyer advertising and were thus subject to attorney advertising regulations just as the firm’s website would be. It reasoned that “(a)s part of a larger communication (the professional website) which concerns the firm’s availability for professional employment, the blog will be subject to the same requirements and restrictions as the website.”

I find this conclusion to be somewhat surprising and to the best of my recollection, it’s the first time I’ve seen this distinction made. In my mind, it’s a bit of a jump to conclude that blog posts that are otherwise educational and not intended to overtly advertise a lawyer’s services are necessarily “tainted “ and thus constitute advertising simply by virtue of the blog being embedded on the law firm’s website. The Committee's rationale - that because the website itself related to the firm’s availability for professional employment, this intent was imputed to the blog regardless of the content of the blog - does not square with its conclusion, discussed below, regarding stand-alone blogs.

Specifically, the Committee concluded that a stand-alone lawyer blog focused “on law‐related issues or developments within his or her practice area (were) not a ‘communication’ subject to the rules regulating attorney advertising unless it invite(d) the reader to contact the
attorney regarding the reader’s personal legal case, or otherwise expresses the attorney’s availability for professional employment.” The Committee clarified that identifying the attorney as the author of a post on the blog, where the reference to the attorney’s name included a hyperlink to the attorney’s law firm website, did not evince an intent to show that the lawyer was available for professional employment. As such, attorney advertising regulations were not applicable.

I disagree with the premise that a blog devoted to educational topics that is embedded on a law firm’s website is somehow more promotional than a blog devoted to educational topics that includes a link to the lawyer’s website in the content of each blog post. In both cases, the lawyer is providing non-promotional content in the substance of the blog post, while providing the reader with context regarding the lawyer’s necessary expertise to write about the issues discussed on the blog.

Also perplexing is a relevant topic noticeably missing from this discussion: any reference to the “About” page that is often embedded in most stand-alone blogs. This page often includes detailed information about the author(s) who write for the blog, including descriptions of their professional background along with links to their professional websites. In other words, it offers information quite similar to that found on a law firm website, and would thus warrant inclusion in the analysis of the issues addressed in this opinion.

So, as is often the case when I read ethics opinions about lawyers using social media and blogging, I find myself in disagreement with the assumptions underlying the analysis relating to the technology at issue. There seems to be a fundamental lack of understanding regarding the use of the medium at issue here, blogging. I find that perplexing in 2017. When it comes to newer technologies, such as Artificial Intelligence, the unfamiliarity with the concepts is forgivable, but blogging has been around for more than a decade. It’s downright puzzling that these concepts continue to seem so foreign to the Committees authoring opinions such as this one. I keep convincing myself that this will change over time, but, quite frankly, I’m beginning to lose hope.

Nicole Black is a Rochester, New York attorney and the Legal Technology Evangelist at MyCase, intuitive web-based law practice management software for the modern law firm. She is also 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.


D.C. Bar Issues Lengthy, Restrictive Opinion On Social Media For Lawyers

Stacked3Here is this week's Daily Record column. My past Daily Record articles can be accessed here.

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D.C. Bar Issues Lengthy, Restrictive Opinion On Social Media For Lawyers

In November, the District of Columbia Bar issued an opinion that was over 7,000 words long. In Opinion 370, the Committee provided a rather in depth analysis on the ethics of lawyers using social media for both marketing and personal use.

This lengthy opinion is unnecessarily restrictive and and is a perfect example of a knee jerk reaction to technology that only serves to stifle lawyers’ use of online tools. Rather than issue a measured response to social media based on analogies to similar offline conduct, the Committee instead treated online interaction and communication by attorneys as suspect and something to be discouraged.

This was evident from the very outset, when the Committee defined social media in an unnecessarily broad manner. The definition included any type of conduct through “any electronic platform”, even private emails, VOIP conversations, and instant messages. And “content” posted online is very broadly defined as “any communications, whether for personal or business purposes, disseminated through websites, social media sites, blogs, chat rooms, listservs, instant messaging, or other internet presences, and any attachments or links related thereto.” (Emphasis added.)

Next, the Committee made the very important, and correct, observation that lawyers have an obligation to understand the social media platforms that they use. The Committee explained that lawyers must “understand the functionality of the social networking site, including its privacy policies…and (l)awyers must understand the manner in which postings on social media sites are made and whether such postings are public or private.”

From there, the opinion went south, with the Committee’s analysis and conclusions resulting in convoluted and complex guidelines seemingly designed with one purpose: to discourage lawyers from using social media altogether. Among the more unusual requirements and obligations the Committee imposed on attorneys were the following:

“Disclaimers are advisable if…the lawyer may be engaged in sending or receiving messages from "friends," whether those friends are other attorneys, family or unknown visitors to the lawyer's social media page, when those messages relate, or may relate, to legal issues.” (Emphasis added).

“Caution should be exercised when stating positions on issues, as those stated positions could be adverse to an interest of a client, thus inadvertently creating a conflict.” (Emphasis added.)

“(G)reat caution should be exercised whenever a social networking site requests permission to access e-mail contacts or to send e-mail to the people in the lawyer's address book or contact list…(T)hese connection services could potentially identify clients or divulge other information that a lawyer might not want an adversary or a member of the judiciary to see or information that the lawyer is obligated to protect from disclosure.”
“We recognize that an attorney's ethical obligations to review and regulate content on social media extends only to those social media sites or webpages for which the attorney maintains control of the content, such as the ability to delete posted content, block users from posting, or block users from viewing. However, notwithstanding the scope of the attorney's affirmative obligations, it is highly advisable for attorneys to be aware of content regarding them on the internet.

”(F)or websites or social media sites where the attorney does not have editorial control over content or the postings of others, we do not believe that the Rules impose an affirmative duty on a lawyer to monitor the content of the sites; however, under certain circumstances, it may be appropriate for the attorney to request that the poster remove the content, to request that the social networking site remove the content, or for the attorney to post a curative response addressing the inaccurate content.”

So, to sum up: 1) disclaimers are required if postings may relate to legal issues, 2) lawyers should avoid any and all postings that are ambiguously described as taking “positions on issues,” 3) lawyers should refrain from allowing a social media site to access their contacts since doing so would somehow (the mechanism is not clear) disclose confidential information, and 4) lawyers are strongly encouraged to be aware of everything that is posted about them or their firm anywhere on the Internet and take steps to remove content that is inaccurate. And, of course, all of these rules apply regardless of whether the content being posted by an attorney is for business or personal reasons.

In other words, “communicate” online (and be aware of everything that everyone on the world might be saying about you) at your own risk - and at the risk of losing your law license - if you’re an attorney in D.C.

Nicole Black is a Rochester, New York attorney and the Legal Technology Evangelist at MyCase, intuitive web-based law practice management software for the modern law firm. She is also 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.


Free resources to help you manage your law practice

Stacked3This week's Daily Record column is entitled "Free resources to help you manage your law practice."  My past Daily Record articles can be accessed here.

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Free resources to help you manage your law practice

 

It’s common knowledge that law schools rarely do a very good job of preparing lawyers to run their law practices. Instead, many law schools have curriculums designed to groom their students to become associates in law firms. For that reason, many law school graduates emerge from the hallowed walls of law school with very little business or technological know-how.

As a result, solo and small-firm lawyers are typically left to their own devices when it comes to managing their law practice and choosing the right technologies for their law firms. The good news is that there are lots of great — and free — resources available to get you up to speed and help you make the right choices for your law firm’s needs.


The American Bar Association’s Solo and Small Firm Resource Center is a great place to start. It offers a wealth of information on the nuts and bolts of setting up your own law practice, including links to webinars, articles and conferences devoted to all aspects of practice management, marketing and technology. It also includes a very useful interactive guide that helps you locate the resources for solo and small-firm lawyers available to you by your state bar association.

Another way to gain information to help you make the best decisions about running your law practice is to attend free webinars that are regularly broadcast online and cover topics such as moving to a paperless office, social media for law firms, website tips for law firms, free online research resources for law firms and more.

One of the best ways to locate these webinars is to follow the blogs of the different legal software companies that offer law practice management tools, since they often host webinars. Companies that host free practice management webinars include MyCase (the company for which I work), Avvo, Clio and Rocket Matter. I think you’ll find that these webinars tend offer lots of useful, actionable information with minimal promotional material.

Podcasts are another great way to learn about the ins and outs of running your law practice. Legal Talk Network offers a number of free monthly podcasts from noted experts in the field on an assortment of topics related to running your law firm. The Lawyerist blog also recently launched a free podcast series covering lots of useful information about practice management issues.

Finally, there are a number of great legal blogs that will help you make decisions about the business side of your law practice. For law practice management topics, consider the Mass. LOMAP blog, My Shingle, Solo Practice U, LawBiz Blog, Oregon Law Practice Management Blog, Solo in Colo and Thoughtful Legal Management.

For marketing and business development, read Divorce Discourse, Cordell Parvin’s Blog, Real Lawyers Have Blogs, Strategist and The Enchanting Lawyer. For legal technology topics, follow Law Technology Today, Family Law Lawyer Tech and Practice, Future Lawyer, iPhone JD, The Droid Lawyer, Lawsites and The Cyber Advocate.

In addition, some blogs cover not just one, but all of these topics, including Above the Law, Lawyerist, Attorney at Work, the MyCase blog and Sui Generis (disclosure: I have written or currently write for all five of these blogs).

So what are you waiting for? Take steps to remedy that law school knowledge gap. Now that you’ve got the inside scoop on free resources to help run your law practice, start taking advantage of them!

Nicole Black is a Rochester, New York attorney and the Legal Technology Evangelist at MyCase, intuitive web-based law practice management software 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 Bar on whether lawyer blogs are ads

Stacked3This week's Daily Record column is entitled "California Bar on whether lawyer blogs are ads."  My past Daily Record articles can be accessed here.

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California Bar on whether lawyer blogs are ads  

 

When blogging started to become commonplace a decade ago, it wasn’t something many lawyers concerned themselves with. Eventually, lawyers began to blog and many began to wonder whether blogs constituted lawyer advertising and thus required disclaimers.

Over time, a number of jurisdictions have addressed this issue, with California weighing in on it just last month in proposed Formal Opinion Interim No.12-0006. In this opinion, the California Standing Committee on Professional Responsibility and Conduct considered the circumstances under which a California attorney with a blog is subject to the provisions of the Professional Rules of Conduct relating to attorney advertising.

The committee considered four different hypothetical blogs: 1) a standalone blog written by an attorney where the majority of posts heralded his courtroom victories and comments to the posts are not permitted, 2) a blog embedded in a law firm’s website that includes substantive law posts written by various members of the firm and invites readers to contact the post author for more information, 3) a stand-alone blog where the attorney writes about substantive law issues and the blog includes a link to the law firm with which the attorney is affiliated, but readers are never invited to contact the firm, and 4) a stand-alone blog where an attorney writes about jazz and the blog includes a link to the law firm with which the lawyer is affiliated.

In assessing whether the various blogs constituted attorney advertising, the committee noted that their analysis revolved around the answer to this inquiry:

“Whether a blog post is a “communication” subject to regulation under rule 1-400 therefore will depend on whether it meets the second part of the test: Is the post “concerning the availability for professional employment” of the member or her firm?”


The committee emphasized that when determining whether a blog post constitutes a “communication,” it is important to consider the nature and features of the blog. So, a blog that is embedded in a law firm’s website, by its very nature, includes communications that suggest availability for professional employment.

In comparison, stand-alone blogs must be examined on a case-by-case basis to determine whether rule 1-400 applies. The committee noted that an explicit invitation on the blog or in blog posts asking the reader to contact or hire the attorney constitutes a communication. In comparison, the Committee explained that a blog that invites readers to comment on the content of a post is evidence that the blog posts are non-commercial commentary rather than a commercial pursuit.

The committee then applied that analysis to the blogs at issue and concluded that the first two blogs (the stand-alone blog showcasing courtroom victories and the blog embedded in the law firm’s website) were “communications” whereas the other two (the substantive stand-alone blog and the jazz blog) were not:

“Attorney blogs are subject to the requirements and restrictions of rule 1-400 and the related provisions of the Business and Professions Code if the blog expresses the attorney’s availability for professional employment directly through words of invitation or offer to provide legal services, or implicitly through a description of the attorney’s legal practices and successes in such a manner that the attorney’s availability for professional employment is evident. A blog that is a part of an attorney’s or law firm’s professional website is subject to the rules regulating attorney advertising to the same extent as the website of which it is a part. A non-legal blog by an attorney is not necessarily subject to the rules or statutes regulating attorney advertising because it includes a hyperlink to the attorney’s professional Web page.”

Nicole Black is a Rochester, New York attorney and the Legal Technology Evangelist at MyCase, intuitive web-based law practice management software 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.


2015 Legal Technology Predictions

Stacked3This week's Daily Record column is entitled "2015 Legal Technology Predictions."  My past Daily Record articles can be accessed here.

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2015 Legal Technology Predictions

 

As 2014 draws to a close, it’s once again time for me to take a stab at predicting how lawyers will use technology in the coming year. I’ve been making these predictions for years now; sometimes I’m right, sometimes I’m wrong. But either way, it’s always a fun endeavor to put my predictions out there and then see if they come to pass. So, let’s get started, shall we?

First, let’s take a look at social media. In 2015, overall social media use by individual lawyers for professional purposes will essentially plateau. This is because the main social media platforms —LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter — are saturated with lawyers and it’s becoming increasingly difficult for newcomers to stand out from the crowd.

Nearly all lawyers now have profiles on LinkedIn so there’s very little room for LinkedIn growth next year. Facebook use by individual lawyers will increase, but more so for personal use than professional use. This is because this platform has become more of a social endeavor for most individual attorneys, although lots of professional connections continue to be maintained on Facebook. Twitter use will likely decline slightly in 2015 for individual lawyers because it’s a difficult platform in which to gain a foothold and many eventually abandon it for other social media platforms that provide more instantaneous results.

However for law firms, social media growth will increase slightly in the coming year, with most firms viewing their social media presence as a necessary branding measure. LinkedIn pages for firms will see an increase since so many lawyers are on LinkedIn. Firms will also increasingly use Twitter since it is such a public way to establish a firm’s brand. Finally, Facebook pages for firms will see an increase as well, but at the slowest pace, given the more social nature of the site.

Google Plus use for both lawyers and law firms will remain the same. This platform had great potential, but unfortunately Google never opened up the site to third party platforms, which makes it difficult to incorporate Google Plus into a daily social media sharing routine. So growth has stagnated and use of the site has declined somewhat.

Next up, cloud computing. I predict that lawyers’ use of cloud computing will increase in 2015 but not as much as I had predicted in prior years. The unexpected NSA revelations and announcements of major hacking events in 2014 put a damper on the uptick in cloud computing.

But one thing that has become clear in the past year is that these types of events are inevitable regardless of whether data is stored on premise-based servers (such as those located in law firms) or on servers owned by third parties, as is the case with cloud computing. In other words, this year lawyers will begin to use cloud computing more often as they realize that what matters is the security measures in place that protect files, not the location of the servers that house the data. So, I predict that we’ll see an overall increase of 10 percent in the use of cloud computing by lawyers, with solo and small firm attorneys leading the way.

Finally, let’s take a look at mobile computing. Lawyers have embraced mobile computing more quickly than any other new type of technology. This trend will continue in 2015, with wearables leading the way. The majority of lawyers already use a smartphone so the increase in smartphone use will be small — perhaps 5 percent. Nearly half of all lawyers use a tablet in their practice and that number will increase only slightly in 2015 to approximately 55 percent.

But it’s wearable technology that will really make waves in 2015 — specifically smartwatches. As I predicted last year, only a small number of lawyers used smart watches in 2014. But with the release of the Apple Watch in early 2015, that will change. By the year’s end, I predict that 10-15 percent of lawyers will be using smartwatches and then by the end of 2016 that number will increase to at least 25 percent. And by the end of 2017, nearly 40 percent of lawyers will be using smartwatches.

Other wearable technology, such as Google Glass, won’t take hold in the legal profession anytime soon, although some innovative lawyers will find ways to use them in their practices.

So there you have it! My technology predictions for 2015. Check back next year at this time to see which ones were spot on and which ones totally missed the mark!

Nicole Black is a Rochester, New York attorney and the Legal Technology Evangelist at MyCase, intuitive web-based law practice management software 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.


Tips on standing out in a competitive market

Stacked3This week's Daily Record column is entitled "Tips on standing out in a competitive market." My past Daily Record articles can be accessed here.

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Tips on standing out in a competitive market  

 

I’m often asked — by lawyers and non-lawyers alike — for tips on how to stand out in today’s competitive job market. People are often referred to me because of the way I’ve used my online presence to leverage my connections and reach to find a niche and job that I enjoy immensely.
As a result, I often find myself talking to young lawyers, lawyers seeking to change their current job situation, or people in other fields who are looking to alter their career paths.

Without fail, I tell each and every one of them that the key is to get out there. Don’t just sit behind your computer, looking for job openings and blindly sending out resumes. Instead, identify your chosen niche and make it yours.

Learn all there is to learn about it. Subscribe to blogs where people write about your chosen focus. Subscribe to Google searches that will bring news articles about your future job right to you.
Next, locate the movers and shakers in that field, whether it’s a specific area of law practice or another career path in a different field. Start to follow what those people are saying. On a daily basis, read their articles, blog posts and social media posts.

Reach out to them, whether via email or on social media, and ask for their advice. And whenever possible, take the online relationship offline. If they live locally, suggest meeting for coffee. If they live far away, suggest a phone call or attend an industry conference that you know they’ll be at. Once you have their ear, pick their brain and — most importantly — listen to what they have to say!
Next — and this is key — make yourself a part of the space you want to be a part of. Join a few select social media sites and connect with the people you’ve identified as important in the space.
And then, start a blog. No, I don’t want to hear excuses. Just do it. And do it now. As long as you have basic writing skills, you can start a blog. Your blog can consist of in-depth posts about topics that interest you — topics that you’ve been reading about now that you’re following people who write about your chosen field.

You can quote a line or two from one of their posts and then add your own spin on the issue. And then — this is key — drop that person an email and let them know how much you enjoyed their post, tell them why you liked it, and let them know you wrote about their post and provide a link.
Share your post — and theirs — on social media, along with links to other content relevant to your chosen field, and continue the conversation. Like I said — make yourself part of the space.
Alternatively, if you hate writing, then create a blog that features videos or podcasts or simply a microblog where you provide short commentary on relevant topics. But the point is — create a blog that showcases your ideas and your interest in the industry that you’ve chosen.

And — this is important — keep blogging! It doesn’t matter if you don’t have a large audience. That’s not the point. By blogging, you are accomplishing a number of important things.
First, you’re forcing yourself to stay abreast of topics trending in your field of choice. Second, you’re engaging in conversations with people interested in the same ideas, both by blogging about their thoughts and by sharing — and discussing — your posts on social media. Third, you’re creating a body of work that showcases your thought processes and your passion for the field you want to become a part of — something you can refer to when you apply for jobs or connect with others in the space. Finally, you’re interacting with others in your field of choice. This type of engagement is invaluable and is often what leads to connections and referrals that will lead to a job offer.

So, if you’re looking for a legal job or are simply looking for a change, that’s what you need to do. Good luck, and may the force be with you!

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.