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Lawyers: Take a look at these two social media platforms

Stacked3Here is a recent Daily Record column. My past Daily Record articles can be accessed here.

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Lawyers: Take a Look at These Two New Social Media Platforms

As you plan for a successful 2021 for your law firm, don’t forget to consider how you plan to use social media to forward your firm’s marketing and business development goals in the coming year. Importantly, you may want to think about whether you should broaden your presence to additional social media sites.

You might be wondering why you should bother interacting on new platforms. I would suggest that it’s well worth it for forward-thinking lawyers to invest time into establishing a presence on less populated platforms early on. This is because it gives you the opportunity to make a name for yourself and your firm before everyone else jumps on the bandwagon and competition for attention increases.

There are two social media apps that have caught my eye in recent months -  and keep in mind that this is the first time in years that I’ve been excited about the potential of new social media sites for lawyers. These two platforms are Clubhouse (joinclubhouse.com) and TikTok (tiktok.com). Because these two sites are quickly gaining momentum, there’s no better time than now to make your mark.

First, there’s Clubhouse. If you’re not already familiar with it, Clubhouse is an audio chat platform that is available as an iOS app and is invite only for now. It consists of user-created drop-in audio chat rooms. You can form your own room or join rooms created by others. These chat rooms can be created spontaneously or scheduled ahead of time. Topics run the gamut, and there’s something for everyone no matter what your areas of interest.

The reason Clubhouse is such a good fit for lawyers is that it’s a great way to showcase your expertise, connect with professional colleagues who might be potential referral sources, and generate exposure for your law firm. It also offers a format that is comfortable and familiar to most lawyers. For many lawyers, sharing information verbally is a much better fit than communicating in writing via a blog or by video on YouTube. Audio chat is less formal than writing, and there’s no pressure to create a professionally produced video - or to be perfectly groomed and dressed every time you interact. Instead it’s a decidedly more informal format that is perfect for lawyers seeking to showcase their expertise and share their knowledge.

Finally, the flexibility and convenience offered by Clubhouse can’t be beat. You can hop on the app whenever you have downtime throughout the work day, or during lunch or after hours. No matter when you decide to interact, it’s a great way to make the most of a short break.

Another app that shows promise for lawyers is TikTok. This mobile app makes it easy for users to view – and create – short, informal videos that are one minute or less. There’s lots of educational content on TikTok which is why it’s such a good fit for lawyers looking to connect with potential clients by providing informational videos. There are already many lawyers using the app for this purpose, so seek them out for some ideas to help get you started. Importantly, if you go this route and decide to provide educational content, make sure you conform to ethics regulations about engaging online, such as ensuring that you provide legal information, not advice.

The bottom line: One of these social media platforms, or even both, may very well be worth your time in 2021. You’ll have to carefully consider your goals and your comfort level with the different formats. Take each one for a test drive for a week or so and then make a determination as to whether either one might be a good use of your time or provide value.

As you might expect, I’m active on both platforms, so make sure to connect with me once you join. Hope to “see” you on one of these sites soon!

Nicole Black is a Rochester, New York attorney, author, journalist, and the Legal Technology Evangelist at MyCase  law practice management software for small law firms. 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 Thomson Reuters treatise. She writes legal technology columns for Above the Law and ABA Journal and speaks regularly at conferences regarding the intersection of law and technology. You can follow her on Twitter at @nikiblack or email her at niki.black@mycase.com.


ABA offers ethical guidance on responding to negative online reviews

Stacked3Here is a recent Daily Record column. My past Daily Record articles can be accessed here.

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ABA Offers Ethical Guidance on Responding to Negative Online Reviews


Now that we live in a digital world, online reviews are becoming increasingly useful tools for consumers. Using these reviews, consumers are able to make more informed decisions when making purchasing decisions about products or services.

Online reviews are great for consumers, but for business owners, navigating the world of online reviews can be tricky since responses to reviews, both negative and positive, are decidedly public. This confounding newfound reality can present problems for lawyers seeking to respond to negative online reviews since doing so can sometimes trigger ethics rules regarding confidential information.

That’s where Formal Opinion 496, which was released last week by the American Bar Association (ABA), comes in. (Online: https://www.americanbar.org/content/dam/aba/administrative/professional_responsibility/aba-formal-opinion-496.pdf). In it, the ABA provides guidance and best practices for lawyers when it comes to ethically responding to negative online reviews.

At the outset, the Committee explained that because of the duty of confidentiality, “lawyers cannot blog about information relating to clients’ representation without client consent, even if they only use information in the public record, because that information is still confidential.”

Next, the Committee addressed the three exceptions to this prohibition, concluding that none of them applied when lawyers seek to respond to negative online reviews. First, the Committee determined that two of the exceptions were clearly inapplicable to the issue at hand. First, online criticism was not a situation that constituted a “proceeding.” Second, online criticism was not an occasion where it was necessary for lawyers to defend a criminal charge or civil claim against them relating to conduct involving the client.

Upon rejecting the applicability of the first two exceptions, the Committee turned to the third exception: where there exists a “controversy between a lawyer and client.” After analyzing opinions handed down from other jurisdictions, the Committee ascertained that the third exception was likewise inapplicable to the issue at hand: “The Committee concludes that, alone, a negative online review, because of its informal nature, is not a ‘controversy between the lawyer and the client’ within the meaning of Rule 1.6(b)(5), and therefore does not allow disclosure of confidential information relating to a client’s matter.”

After reaching the conclusion that lawyers are precluded from disclosing confidential information when responding online to negative reviews, the Committee provided some best practices to assist lawyers who are faced with negative online reviews.

First, the Committee suggested that lawyers reach out to the host of the website or search engine where the negative review appeared and request that the review be removed. The Committee cautioned that it’s important to avoid revealing any confidential information when doing so, and opined that lawyers may choose to say that “the post is not accurate or that the lawyer has not represented the poster if that is the case.”

The Committee also advised that, from a practical standpoint, lawyers should carefully consider whether to respond at all. The Committee explained that "the more activity any individual post receives, the higher the post appears in search results online… (and) no response may cause the post to move down in search result rankings and eventually disappear into the ether.”

If, however, you choose to respond, the Committee offered a number of different permissible options. First, the Committee suggested that lawyers attempt to move the conversation offline with a response such as, “Please contact me by telephone so that we can discuss your concerns.” But the Committee cautioned that if you follow that route, you will need to ensure that you follow up with the client since doing “nothing to attempt to assuage the person’s concerns risks additional negative posts.”

Another option offered by the Committee is to respond online by simply advising that ethical rules preclude a response. Here’s an example of this type of response offered by the Committee: “Professional obligations do not allow me to respond as I would wish.”

Finally, the Committee cautioned that if you do ultimately choose to respond online, you must avoid disclosing “information that relates to a client matter or that could reasonably lead to the discovery of confidential information by others.”

Whatever choice you make, tread lightly, and never forget that the internet is forever. Evan if you change your mind and delete a response or request that it be removed, its memory (and possibly a screenshot) will live on. The best course of action is to err on the side of caution and think before you post. As I always say: better safe than sorry!

Nicole Black is a Rochester, New York attorney, author, journalist, and the Legal Technology Evangelist at MyCase  law practice management software for small law firms. 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 Thomson Reuters treatise. She writes legal technology columns for Above the Law and ABA Journal and speaks regularly at conferences regarding the intersection of law and technology. You can follow her on Twitter at @nikiblack or email her at niki.black@mycase.com.