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What Social Media Isn't


This week's Daily Record column is entitled "What Social Media Isn't."

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


What Social Media Isn't

Over the next few weeks I plan to write about different goals that lawyers can achieve through social media. Each week, I’ll focus on a specific goal and offer suggestions regarding ways the goal can be accomplished using different social media platforms and tools.

However, this week, I’d like to discuss what social media is not. Social media is not for everyone. And, it’s not a magic bullet.

Social media won’t make you a great lawyer. Only hard work and experience can do that. It can, however, make you a better lawyer when used to bring relevant information to you that will help you stay up to date on your areas of practice. Granted, you can accomplish the same thing using other resources, but social media tools are an effective and efficient way to do this.

Next, social media will not increase client contacts for all lawyers. Online marketing campaigns are effective only if your clients are online, using the same social media sites as you. For some lawyers, such as those who practice criminal defense, it’s unlikely that the vast majority of your potential client base will actively participate in social media.

However, for those seeking to expand their criminal defense practice, increasing the strength of your online presence to maximize search engine optimization is a good alternative to spend- ing time interacting on social media sites. While your potential clients may not use online search engines to locate an attorney, there’s a decent chance that some of their family members — those who end up footing the bill for an attorney — will search for a lawyer online.

Which leads me to my next point: social media is not a one- size-fits-all proposition. There is no magic formula that will work for every lawyer. In fact, the “formula” of interaction that works will be different for every lawyer. No two social media strategies will be the same because every lawyer’s practices and goals are different.

In other words, your social media interaction will necessarily be shaped by the goals that you hope to achieve. The ways in which you choose to engage in social media will vary depending on your areas of practice, your location and your personality.

And, for some lawyers, deciding not to participate in social media is the best choice.
Last, but not least, social media is not a substitute for other, more traditional, forms of information gathering, networking and marketing. Rather, social media is a tool that, when used strategically and effectively, supplements the traditional methods of interaction and outreach. For some areas, like marketing, it can provide you with a more cost effective alternative to certain types of arguably outdated print media campaigns.

Likewise, social media allows lawyers to replace some of the more time consuming after hours networking events with more flexible online interaction. You should absolutely continue to interact with your col- leagues and potential clients at face-to-face networking events. And, whenever possible, move your online interaction offline by meeting people that you have met online for coffee or lunch. Face-to-face interaction simply cannot be beat, but social media can help facilitate that process and expand your reach beyond your local area

So, there are plenty of things that social media is not. It’s notmagical. It’s not going to change your life or your law practice. It is, however, an additional tool to add to your arsenal — and one that has the potential to benefit your law practice in many ways.

Lawyers: Make Social Media Happen for You


This week's Daily Record column is entitled "Lawyers: Make Social Media Happen for You"

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


Lawyers: Make Social Media Happen for You

Social media is the latest and greatest thing.

Lately, it seems like everyone is talking about it — in fact some people rave about its potential as a business tool. But does it really make sense for lawyers, who provide professional services, as opposed to companies that sell products or consumer-oriented services, such as auto repair?

The short answer is, “Yes.” Social media can work for lawyers, too. It’s more than just a marketing tool. In fact, it can be used to benefit lawyers and their practices in a number of useful ways.

However, as I’ve oft-repeated, social media is useless without goals. In fact, in the just released book, “Social Media for Lawyers: The Next Frontier,” my co-author, Carolyn Elefant and I devote an entire section of the book to the various goals and the ways in which they can be achieved.

As we emphasize throughout the book, different lawyers have different types of practices and different goals, and thus should have different social media strategies. It’s not a one-size-fits-all proposition. Instead, you must carefully tailor your social media strategy so that it forwards your chosen goals and makes the most efficient use of the time you spend online.

In future columns, I’ll examine each goal in turn in addition to offering suggestions as to how to go about achieving the various goals. I’ve focused today’s column on an overview of the different goals.

First, you can use social media to network and build relationships with colleagues and clients. The key to doing so is to inter- act on the social media platforms that are used by the people with whom you want to network. Then, after connecting online, convert the online relationship to an offline one by picking up the phone or meeting for coffee or lunch.

Another great way to use social media is to locate information to support your areas of practice. Using social media tools, such as RSS feed readers and Twitter feeds, you can easily sort through the constant barrage of information and bring information relevant to your practice directly to you.

Social media can also be used to gain competitive intelligence and customer feedback. Using certain search techniques, you can gather data about potential customers and your competitors.

And, web analytics tools can provide you with detailed information about visitors to your website or blog. By evaluating key word searches that lead people to your site, you can determine what your potential clients are looking for and tailor your online presence accordingly.

You can also showcase your expertise and create a personal or law firm brand via your blogs and your social media interactions. Your online persona will vary from one platform to another, depending on your goals and the nature of the platform. However, consistency across the platforms and a professional, yet personable presence will greatly assist in establishing yourself as an approachable expert in a particular area of law.

Finally, an effective social media presence can greatly improve your online presence, thereby increasing search engine optimization, and thus improve the quality of
leads. The more you tailor your online presence to reach a certain target market, the more likely you’ll be contacted by clients seeking those types of services from your law firm.

As you can see, social media is far more than a marketing tool; instead, it’s a virtual toolbox that can benefit your law practice in more ways that you thought possible.
It’s just a matter of creating an effective social media strategy that forwards your chosen goals.

Social media, Facebook and juries, oh my!


This week's Daily Record column is entitled "Social media, Facebook and juries, oh my!"

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


Social media, Facebook and juries, oh my!

In June I wrote about People v. Rios, 26 Misc.3d 1225(A), 2010 WL 625221 (N.Y. Sup. Ct. 2010), a negligent homicide trial that never should have been prosecuted in the first instance.

The victims in Rios were firefighters who died while ing to a fire in an apartment building owned and man- aged by the defendants. Following the fire, an investigation revealed modifications made by lessees to apartments in the building may have caused the fire- fighters’ deaths.

On appeal, the convictions against the defendants were rightly set aside on the ground that the evidence did not support the prosecution’s theory that the defendants had actual knowledge of the conditions in the fires that resulted in the deaths.

In addition to the substantive issues in the case, a procedural issue raised on appeal caught my eye as well, that is whether juror misconduct occurred when a juror sent a Facebook “friend” request to a firefighter witness while the trial was pending.

The juror, Karen Krell, sent a Facebook “friend” request to one of the firefighter witnesses, Brendan Cawley, on the evening after jury deliberations began. She wasn’t entirely sure whether the person she “friended” in fact was the same person who had testified at the trial. She did not include a personal message, indicating how she knew him or why she was contacting him with the request, but rather left that field blank.

Cawley later testified that he had no idea who she was and he ignored her request. After the jury rendered its verdict, Krell sent a message to Cawley, in which she identified herself as a juror in the case. He then accepted her “friend” request and the two exchanged a few e-mails.

The appeals court acknowledged that by sending a “friend” request while the trial was pending Krell breached her obligations as a juror. The court noted, however, that juror misconduct alone is insufficient to rise to the level of juror misconduct; rather, the misconduct must substantially prejudice the defendants’  rights.

The court concluded — correctly, in my opinion — that no prejudice occurred: “Although [the] defendants argue that Ms. Krell’s ‘feelings’ toward Firefighter Cawley ‘necessarily tainted’ the outcome of the case, there is absolutely no evidence in the hearing record to support this assertion. Three days into deliberations any juror would be expected to have a feeling or opinion about the evidence at trial. [The d]efendants failed to elicit any testimony to establish what exactly Ms. Krell’s ‘feelings’ were or how any ‘feelings’ implicit in her friend request affected the jury’s deliberations in any way. Accordingly, [the] defendants failed to meet their burden of establishing that the juror’s misconduct prejudiced a substantial right of the defendants.”

Taken to its logical conclusion, Krell’s attempt to contact the firefighter was akin to her greeting him in an elevator in the courthouse. In that scenario, the proper response on his part would have been to ignore her, which is exactly what he did when she contacted him via Facebook. In this case, no harm, no foul.

That’s not always the case, however. Social media are a relatively new phenomena and the courts continue to struggle with appropriate ways to address the issue of jurors using social media tools improperly during trials.

Over the last year, numerous cases have addressed the issue and many verdicts have been overturned due to improper use of social media by jurors, including the use
of smart phones to Google information during a trial, attempts to contact witnesses or defendants and posting to social networking sites about the trial as it occurs. Social media use shows no signs of abating, so we can only expect the frequency of such incidents to increase.

Courts should attempt to nip the issues in the bud by proactively advising jurors that using computers and smart phones to access or broadcast information and/or contact trial participants is unacceptable. Likewise, when improper activity occurs, it is important to extend the same rationale applied to offline conduct to online conduct, rather than engaging in a knee-jerk reaction to a new and misunderstood technology.

The appellate court did just that in Rios, focusing instead on the troubling substantive issues, as it should have. Justice was achieved, and on the appropriate grounds.