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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.


My 8 year blog anniversary!

I just realized that it's my 8 year blog anniversary, right down to the day. Here's a link to my very first post. It's hard to believe how quickly time flew by!

Thanks for all of the support and friendship over the years. It's been a crazy ride, but a wonderful one!


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.


NY bar considers whether law blogs are ads

Stacked3This week's Daily Record column is entitled "NY bar considers whether law blogs are ads." My past Daily Record articles can be accessed here.

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NY bar considers whether law blogs are ads

When I first started my law blog in 2005, blogging was just becoming mainstream. Very few lawyers blogged and it was unclear whether blogs devoted to discussing and analyzing legal issues constituted an “advertisement” under the New York Rules of Professional Conduct, thus requiring compliance with attorney advertising rules.

This issue was cleared up somewhat in 2007 when the rules were revised and the commentary which accompanied the new rules suggested that law blogs with primarily educational goals, as opposed to those focused on obtaining clients, were not considered legal advertising.

However, up until now, the New York State Bar Association’s Committee on Professional Ethics had never interpreted the relevant rules and weighed in on this issue. Fortunately, in June that changed when the committee handed down Opinion 967, which provided clarification on this issue.

The specific question asked in this case was whether the inquiring attorney’s blog was an advertisement “and thus subject to the retention and preservation requirements of the attorney advertising rules” where the attorney was employed by a corporation promoting work-life balance and planned to blog about work-life balance issues on the corporation’s behalf under his name for a blog titled “The [Inquirer’s Name] Esq. Blog.”

The committee concluded that because his blog would not focus on legal matters and there was no indication that he intended to solicit legal clients through the blog, it would not be deemed to be an advertisement.

In reaching this very specific conclusion, the committee also addressed the broader issue relating to what types of legal blogs might require an attorney to comply with the applicable attorney advertising rules.

Importantly, the committee noted that pursuant to the Comments to Rule 1.7, not all communications made by a lawyer constitute an advertisement: “For example, marketing and branding items such as pencils or legal pads with a firm name do not constitute advertisements if their primary purpose is general awareness and branding, rather than the retention of the law firm for a particular matter.  Cmt. [8]. Sponsorship of cultural or sporting events, with dissemination of information about the lawyer limited to specified narrow categories, is also not considered advertising. Cmt. [10]. Even when communications from lawyers contain information about the law, they are not necessarily advertising. …”

Then, in a footnote, the committee elaborated upon this concept, explaining that Comment 7 to Rule 7.1 specifically states that communications by lawyers — including blog posts — where the primarily goals of the communications are educational, do not constitute advertising: “For example, ‘[t]opical newsletters … or blogs intended to educate recipients about new developments in the law are generally not considered advertising.’ Rule 7.1, Cmt. [7]; see also, e.g., N.Y. State 918 (2012) (educational legal video that does not encourage viewers to retain the law firm is not an advertisement because the primary purpose is not retention of the law firm); N.Y. State 899 (2011) (providing general answers to questions in a legal chat room, without more, does not constitute advertising).”

The bottom line is that the 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. In other words, where a blog is written by an attorney, but the primary purpose of the blog is educational and is not retention of the attorney, it is not an advertisement. To the extent that was unclear before, it is no longer and blogging New York lawyers can rest easy tonight.

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.


Can lawyers ethically blog about their cases?

Stacked3This week's Daily Record column is entitled "Can lawyers ethically blog about their cases?"

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

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Can lawyers ethically blog about their cases?

When blogging first became popular years ago, lawyers were often reluctant to participate due to ethical concerns. Even today, that hesitancy remains despite the large scale adoption of blogging by lawyers and non-lawyers alike.

Hopefully, a recent Virginia decision, Horace Frazier Hunter v. Record No. 121472, handed down in February of this year, will quell some of the remaining concerns. According to the decision issued by the Virginia Supreme Court, 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.

In this case, the Virginia State Bar had determined that criminal defense attorney Horace Frazier Hunter had violated client confidences by discussing information about closed cases, including discussing favorable case outcomes and including the client’s name when doing so. Hunter appealed the decision, which ultimately reached the Virginia Supreme Court.

Among the issues considered by the court were whether his blog posts were considered to be commercial speech and whether he could ethically discuss public information about his clients without their consent.

First, the court addressed the issue of whether Hunter’s blog posts constituted commercial speech and thus were subject to regulation by the Virginia State Bar. The court concluded that the posts were commercial speech because, among other things: 1) Hunter admitted that his motivation for posting was, in part, economic; 2) the posts served as an advertisement since they highlighted favorable results obtained on behalf of clients; 3) Hunter referred to his lawyering skills in the vast majority of his posts; 4) the blog was part of his law firm’s website rather than a freestanding blog; and 5) the blog was not interactive since it did not permit comments.

Next, the court moved on to the issue of whether Hunter had violated client confidentiality by discussing the outcomes of closed cases and including client’s names in the blog posts. The court concluded that First Amendment protections applied since the cases discussed on the blog were closed: “It is settled that attorney speech about public information from cases is protected by the First Amendment, but it may be regulated if it poses a substantial likelihood of materially prejudicing a pending case.”

“The VSB argues that it can prohibit an attorney from repeating truthful information made in a public judicial proceeding even though others can disseminate this information because an attorney repeating it could inhibit clients from freely communicating with their attorneys or because it would undermine public confidence in the legal profession,” the court explained.

“Such concerns, however, are unsupported by the evidence. To the extent that the information is aired in a public forum, privacy considerations must yield to First Amendment protections. In that respect, a lawyer is no more prohibited than any other citizen from reporting what transpired in the courtroom.”

However, although the court held that Hunter’s posts were protected by the First Amendment, it also concluded that the bar could regulate the speech and require disclaimers, since the speech had the potential to be misleading. The court reversed and remanded the case for additional considerations regarding the issue of appropriate disclaimers.

All in all, I think this was a good decision, with one exception. I disagree with the court’s assertion that the failure to allow commenting on blog posts is evidence that a blog is intended for commercial purposes. That is simply not the case.

Permitting comments on blogs has fallen out of favor among many bloggers, myself included, due to the massive amounts of spam comments that are posted. So I, like many other bloggers, have simply decided to no longer permit comments in order to avoid spending unnecessary amounts of time moderating comments from spambots, marketers and self-promoters.

But, aside from that one area of disagreement, this was, overall, a good decision. My hope is that decisions like this one will have the effect of encouraging lawyers to learn more about blogging and other opportunities to interact online.

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.


Win a copy of "Solo by Choice" or "Social Media for Lawyers"

Social media book cover
Each month at the MyCase blog, we hold a giveaway. Last month two Geminus Genius iPad cases were up for grabs. This month, don’t forget to enter to win one of two books:

If you’d like a chance to win, head on over to the MyCase blog and sign up!

And, while you’re at it, check out my past posts there about law practice management and legal technology issues, including mobile computing and cloud computing for lawyers.

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Tips and tricks to get your legal blog started

Stacked3This week's Daily Record column is entitled "Tips and tricks to get your legal blog started."

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

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Tips and tricks to get your legal blog started

Recently, I’ve had a number of lawyers approach me for career advice and during the course of our conversations, I sometimes suggest that the lawyer consider starting a law blog. Oftentimes I’m met with a somewhat terrified look or am peppered with questions about how to go about doing so. So, I figured it was high time that I wrote an article about the process of creating, and maintaining, a legal blog.

First things first, make sure that you enjoy the writing process and that you can decide on a topic or topics about which you are passionate. This is important because if you don’t enjoy writing or the topics about which you write, your blog will fall flat.

The next thing you’ll need to do is determine your goals. Why are you writing the blog? To showcase your writing skills and your expertise? To meet and network with other lawyers? To attract media attention? To reach potential clients? To improve search engine optimization for your blog and/or website? To expand your online presence? Or perhaps a combination of some of these goals?

Next, once you’ve established your goals, you’ll need to decide which topic(s) you’d like to write about. Obviously, your chosen topics should further your goals. So, for example, if one of your primary goals is to reach potential clients, then your topics should be of interest to them and written on a level that is understandable to them.

Alternatively, if connecting with other lawyers and showcasing your knowledge are two of your goals, you should focus on topics of interest to lawyers who may ultimately become referral sources.

Once you’ve settled on a few topics, you’ll need to choose a blogging platform. Many people use WordPress (wordpress.org), a free and easy-to-use blogging platform. My preferred platform is Typepad (typepad.com), which costs just $8.95 per month for a single blog. It’s intuitive, is easily customizable, and integrates well with other Web-based tools and platforms.

Next you’ll need to create a daily reading list of sites that post about content relevant to your chosen topics. That way you can keep up on the topics you’ve decided to write about and will thus have fodder for your blog posts. The easiest way to do that is to use an RSS feed reader. RSS feed readers are Web-based applications through which you can subscribe to the RSS feeds of various websites and blogs. Feed readers are important because they simplify your life and bring information relevant to your interests directly to you, in one place.
Many people use Google Reader (google.com/reader). I prefer Feedly (feedly.com).

Feedly is a browser add on. Once installed, you are able to subscribe to blogs (and/or import your Google Reader subscriptions) and can then organize your subscriptions into different categories. Your chosen content then appears in an easy to read, magazine-like interface.
And, as you open up each item you have the option of sharing it across your various social networks. Also helpful is that Feedly “learns” as you interact with it and serves up the most relevant content based on your usage habits.

Another option is to use a mobile app, such as Zite, which imports your Google Reader subscriptions and then, like Feedly, provides you relevant content in an easy to use magazine-like interface based on your interactions with the app.

The last thing you’ll need to simplify your blogging experience is download Zemanta, a blog publishing aid (zemanta.com). Zemanta is a browser add-on that is designed to supplement and assist bloggers.

Once you install the app, it appears as an overlay to your blogging platform and suggests images with understandable license details (obtained from Wikimedia Commons, Flickr and various stock photo providers), links, tags and related articles. The suggestions made are based on based on a contextual analysis of the text of your post.

That’s it! Once you’ve followed these steps, you’ll be all set to blog. Best of luck and I’ll see you around the blogosphere!

Nicole Black is a Rochester, New York attorney and the Vice President 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 nblack@nicoleblackesq.com.

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New York addresses legal blogging ethics

Stacked3This week's Daily Record column is entitled "New York addresses legal blogging ethics."

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

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New York addresses legal blogging ethics

Although blogging has been around for well over a decade now, our profession was late to jump on the bandwagon. Nevertheless, the ethics of legal blogging has been an issue from the get go. For example, when blogging first reared its ugly head, there was much debate about whether a legal blog constituted an “advertisement” as defined by the Rules of Professional Conduct.

Although some time has passed since blogging first emerged upon the legal scene, intriguing ethical issues still abound. For example, the most recent ethical inquiry arose last month when the New York State Bar Association’s Committee on Professional Ethics wrestled with this rather interesting legal blogging ethical quandary in Ethics Op. 912: Whether the rules prohibit a lawyer from “hosting or participating in a blog dedicated to publishing factually accurate criticism of another lawyer’s professional conduct.”

In other words, may a lawyer talk trash about another lawyer on a legal blog, as long as the allegations are “factually accurate?”

Before diving into the committee’s analysis and conclusion — two observations.

First, I find it hard to believe that one attorney has such animosity toward another attorney that s/he feels the need to: 1) establish a blog criticizing that attorney, and 2) had foresight to seek the committee’s ethical blessing prior to doing so. If nothing else, the convoluted and time consuming nature of this undertaking makes me wonder what kind of world we’re living (and practicing) in?

Second, I take issue with the wording of the inquiry itself because I disagree with the underlying assumption that “allegations” can be “factually accurate.” Sure the underlying factual allegations may be true, but the conclusions or “allegations” based thereon are neither accurate nor inaccurate. Instead, aren’t they simply one person’s opinion drawn from an analysis and interpretation of the facts? I don’t see how an interpretation of the facts can be “factually accurate.”

That being said, before I go too far astray, let’s delve into the committee’s analysis of this inquiry, shall we?

First, the committee noted that the rules forbid lawyers from criticizing judges, but are silent as to criticism aimed at other lawyers:

“Although Rule 8.2 of the New York Rules of Professional Conduct (the “Rules”) expressly addresses lawyer criticism of judges … there is no comparable provision that specifically addresses public criticism of a lawyer by a lawyer. Therefore, any ethical restraint on such expression would, under the rules, necessarily derive from the more general provisions of Rule 8.4(c), prohibiting a lawyer from engaging in conduct “involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentations”, or Rule 8.4 (d), prohibiting a lawyer from engaging in conduct that is “prejudicial to the administration of justice.”

The committee then turned to its analysis of Rules 8.4(c)and (d), and said analysis was surprisingly perfunctory. Without much discussion or explanation, the committee essentially concluded that as long as the criticism was “accurate,” all was good:

“Assuming that the blog criticism is sufficiently accurate and in context not to run afoul of Rule 8.4(c), the question is whether there are any limitations arising from Rule 8.4(d) on a lawyer’s factually sustainable public criticism of another lawyer.”

The committee then tempered its conclusion by applying the restrictions of Rule 8.4 (d) and then adding that critical lawyers should keep in mind that pursuant to the “Standards of Civility” adopted by the Uniform Court System, attorneys “should avoid vulgar language, disparaging personal remarks or acrimony towards other counsel, parties or witnesses.” Finally, the committee also observed that pursuant to Rule 8.3(a), lawyers are required report the misconduct of other lawyers to the appropriate tribunal.

In other words, feel free to trash talk your colleagues online, but keep it clean. And, trash talking is a double edged sword: if you insist on blogging about your colleague’s malfeasance, you’ll also have to turn your unethical colleague in — or risk facing a disciplinary claim yourself.

Nicole Black is a Rochester, New York attorney and the Vice President of Business Development and Community Relations at MyCase, a powerful and intuitive cloud-based law practice management platform. 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 nblack@nicoleblackesq.com. 

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Are bloggers journalists? Courts are catching up

DR logoThis week's Daily Record column is entitled "Are bloggers journalists? Courts are catching up"

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

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Are bloggers journalists? Courts are catching up.

I wrote my first article about blogging in 2007. Back then, hardly anyone had heard of it, least of all my fellow lawyers.

At that point, I’d been blogging for over a year at my law blog, Sui Generis. I started that blog in late-2005 on the advice of my cousin, Rochester attorney David Rothenberg. I’d had lunch with David, seeking his advice on my return to the legal field after a 3-year hiatus. As the lunch concluded and we were heading out of the restaurant, he offhandedly mentioned “Oh, by the way, I heard about this thing called blogging on NPR this morning. You might want to check that out.”

That was some of the best advice I’ve ever received. I started Sui Generis a few weeks later and everything that I’ve accomplished to date has been, in some way, tangentially related to the body of work that I created on that blog.

Fast forward 6 years, and now everyone knows what a blog is, even if they don’t blog themselves. And, even lawyers started jumping on the blogging bandwagon in droves just a few years ago.

Blogging is now mainstream. So much so that for many people, blogs are one of their primary news sources. Think Huffington Post, for example. For that reason, bloggers have long tried to obtain status as journalists whether for the journalistic protections provided by the First Amendment or for the ability to have access to newsworthy events, such as trials.

It’s been an uphill battle and many efforts by bloggers to obtain the same rights as journalists have unsuccessful. However, the tide is slowly, but surely, changing, as evidenced by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court’s decision to enact a new rule which will allow “citizen journalists” to photograph courtroom proceedings.

The new Rule 1:19 (www.universalhub.com/files/rule119.pdf) addresses electronic access to the courts and expands the definition of “news media” so that it now includes “organizations that regularly gather, prepare, photograph, record, write, edit, report or publish news or information about matters of public interest for dissemination to the public in any medium, whether print or electronic, and to individuals who regularly perform a similar function.”

The rules allows judges, at their discretion, to allow the “photographing or electronic recording or transmitting of courtroom proceedings to the public by the news media for news gathering purposes or for the dissemination of information to the public …”

The devices permitted to be operated include “still and video cameras, audio recording or transmitting devices, and portable computers or electronic devices with communication capabilities.”

The rule gives judges wide latitude to exercise discretion in allowing or disallowing the use of devices by media and wisely prohibits recording or transmission of, among other things, voir dire, bench and side-bar conferences and frontal or close-up views of jurors and prospective jurors. The rule also allows minors and sexual assault victims to be photographed only upon consent of the judge.

In other words, the rule allows judges to control the proceedings and protect the privacy of those involved to the extent needed to ensure a fair and impartial trial — one that is unaffected by the media coverage, whether by traditional media or “citizen journalists” such as bloggers.

The passage of this new rule gives me much needed hope. It is one more indication that the legal field does not consist of a bunch of clueless curmudgeons stuck in the 20th century. Instead, our profession is agile, forward-thinking and willing to change with the times and acknowledge the inescapable effects that technology is having upon our society as a whole, and, as a result, upon our justice system.

Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court: thanks for making it easier for me to sleep at night. I salute you for a job well done.

Nicole Black is the Vice President of Business Development and Community Relations at MyCase, a cloud-based law practice management platform. She is a Rochester, NY-based attorney and a GigaOM Pro Analyst. She 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 nblack@nicoleblackesq.com.

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Legal Technology Predictions for 2012


Dr
This week's Daily Record column is entitled "Legal Technology Predictions for 2012."

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

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Legal Technology Predictions for 2012

If 2011 was the year that lawyers finally took notice of Internet-based and mobile technologies--if only because these tools affected evidentiary issues in their practices--then 2012 will be the year that most lawyers not yet using these tools will make a conscious decision to put off using many of them in their practice. 

This is because for many lawyers, the continued economic recession will cause increased financial pressures and competition for clients, requiring lawyers to work harder just to make ends meet. Accordingly, emerging legal technologies will be a low priority since the time and monetary investment needed to learn about and implement these tools into their law practices will deter them from doing so.

That being said, 2012 won’t be a technology vacuum for the legal field. Lawyers will become increasingly mobile and the use of iPads and other tablet devices will continue to increase dramatically. iPads will be the tablet device of choice since the iPad offers the best selection of work-related apps thus making it particularly appealing to lawyers.

Smart phone use will also continue to rise, with the iPhone leading the way, in large part due to its compatibility with iPads. The use of Android devices will come in at a close second, with Blackberry use declining rapidly.

However, when it comes to cloud computing and social media, the future doesn’t look so bright in 2012. I believe that attorneys’ use of cloud computing tools will rise very slowly over the next year, while social media use will remain nearly stagnant as some attorneys currently participating will drop out and will then be replaced by a nearly identical number of attorneys looking to test the social media waters.

Specifically, regarding cloud computing, I predict that there will be a cloud backlash as a number of ethics decisions are handed down in 2012 which will discourage the use of cloud computing tools. Nevertheless, some lawyers will still choose to use cloud computing in their law practices, but most will likely choose to use these tools for non-confidential information, such as billing or the storage of forms and other less sensitive data in the cloud.

The good news is that the cloud backlash will reverse itself in mid-2013, much like what occurred with the email backlash in the 1990s. Rest assured, mass adoption of cloud computing tools for the processing and storage of confidential information is the future, it will just take the legal field a while to realize the inevitability of that fact. 

Regarding lawyers’ use of social media in 2012, the numbers will generally remain stagnant.  

LinkedIn will be the most active in terms of new participants, but the participation will generally be limited to the creation of profiles with no further interaction. 

The use of Facebook will also increase slightly in 2012, as lawyers join with the primary goal of keeping in touch with family and friends. 

The percentage of lawyers with active legal blogs and Twitter accounts will likely remain stagnant, as the number of lawyers abandoning their blogs and Twitter accounts will be nearly identical to the number of lawyers creating new legal blogs or Twitter accounts. 

There will be a sizable increase in the number of AmLaw 200 firms participating on Twitter and publishing legal blogs, although their Twitter participation will be mostly promotional and their blogs will consist of bland legalese and will be devoid of personality. For the most part, AmLaw 200 firms’ social media participation will lack the essential element that makes social media use worthwhile: personal interaction. For that reason, their social media participation will be mostly ineffective.

Finally, by the end of 2012, Google Plus, Google’s new social network, will finally come into its own. Currently, Google Plus is in its infancy, but the Google development team is in the process of integrating Google Plus into all aspects of Internet users’ day-to-day online interactions, from search and media consumption to communicating with friends and family. As Google Plus begins to compete with the already established social networks and becomes increasingly mainstream in late 2012, lawyers will begin to take notice and the number of lawyers using Google Plus will begin to rise. 

So, those are my predictions. I feel fairly confident about them, but hope I’m wrong about some of them--in particular the cloud computing backlash. I truly hope that, come this time next year, I’ll look back and breathe a sigh of relief that the backlash I predicted never occurred. If that’s the case, I’ll truly be proud of my profession and the ethics committees for their forward thinking adoption of a technology that is undoubtedly the future the of computing.

Nicole Black is a Rochester, New York attorney and GigaOM Pro Analyst. She co-authors the ABA book Social Media for Lawyers: the Next Frontier, co-authors Criminal Law in New York, a West-Thomson treatise, and is currently writing a book about cloud computing for lawyers that will be published by the ABA in late 2011. 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 nblack@nicoleblackesq.com. 

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