Archive for March, 2011

Social Media Myth #1 – It’s Just for Kids

Ethan Wall | March 29, 2011 in Social Media Law & Order | Comments (0)

Social media is just for kids. Its populated almost entirely by teenagers, college students, and recent graduates. No one my age is on Facebook. None of my potential clients are tweeting. Right? Not according to mashable.com.

Contrary to popular perception, internet users 35 and older dominate the big three social media sites Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.  Over 28% of Facebook users are between the ages of 35 and 54, representing the largest age demographic on the site.  Similarly, 42 % of Twitter users are older than 35, and a whopping 77% of LinkedIn users as well according to Social Media for Lawyers. Because the 35+ demographic is considered to be the sweet spot for marketing purposes, social media provides a powerful marketing tool.

In fact, as of March 2011, the majority of America is now on Facebook. According to Edison Research, more than half of all Americans aged 12 or older are now on Facebook, accounting for 51% of Americans – a giant leap from only 8% in 2008. All signs point to these numbers increasing as social media becomes more accepted by older demographics.

So maybe Facebook is populated by teenagers. Maybe twitter is full of college students and recent graduates. But the numbers show that so are you colleagues, clients, and potential referral sources.  Social media is not just for kids anymore.


Benefits of Social Media for Attorneys

Ethan Wall | March 24, 2011 in Social Media Law & Order | Comments (0)

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Attorneys and law firms should balance the rewards and risks of using social media to promote their practice.  Many attorneys are hesistant to dive into online marketing through social media because they are unaware of the benefits social media provides:

Social media is an important marketing and business development tool.  Attorneys and law firms are beginning to recognize that social media websites, like blogs, are a valuable form of branding and relationship building.  Social media is an effective means of communicating your firm’s brand to today’s online marketplace.

Social media adds value. Your brand is critical to the success of your firm.  Your attorneys serve as a reflection of your firm’s brand in the courtroom, boardroom, and through their online activities.  Responsible and effective social media activities add value to the firm’s business and helps generate new clients by:

  • promoting your firm, attorneys, client success stories, and firm accomplishments to a vast online community;

 

  • promoting your attorney’s knowledge or skills by sharing firm blog posts, articles of interest, and advertises publications and presentations by firm attorneys;

 

  • building a sense of community – potential clients hire firms with attorneys they know, like, and trust; and

 

  • helping promote the firm’s values by becoming an extension of the firm’s brand.

Like any successful marketing campagin, social media will not generate clients over time.  Your law firm should brainstorm your short term and long term online marketing goals, create a business development plan, and consult internal and external marketing professionals for advice.  Over the coming months, this blog can also serve as a resource to identify how your firm can use social media professioanly, effectively, and ethically.


Request Jury Instructions to Prevent Improper Social Media Use

Ethan Wall | March 22, 2011 in Social Media Law & Order | Comments (5)

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Social media is penetrating the legal system from the courtroom to the jury room.  With the power to access social media from the palm(pilot) of your hand, instances of jurors impermissibly discussing cases through “electronic communication” such as Twitter and Facebook are becoming more frequent in today’s legal system. As early as 2009, attorneys have monitored jurors’ social media use as another tool in their arsenal to overturn verdicts and move for mistrials.

In Stoam Holdings v. Diehl, the defense moved for a mistrial on the grounds that a juror researched information about the case and communicated with others outside the jury about the case when he made the following tweets:

“So Jonathan, what did you do today? Oh nothing really, I just gave away TWELVE MILLION DOLLARS of somebody else’s money.”

Shortly thereafter, the juror again tweeted about the case, this time included a hyperlink directly to the defendant’s website:

“oh and nobody buy Stoam. Its bad mojo and they’ll probably cease to Exist, now that their wallet is 12m lighter.  http://www.stoam.com”

One can easily imagine the types of scenarios where this conduct could arise. A juror could post a verdict concerning their trial to their Facebook before the prosecution closes their case. They could just as easily communicate with a party through Myspace about their view of the trial.  Until recently, attorneys would be required to mine through social media sites to uncover these clandestine communications.   Thanks to the Florida Supreme Court, attorneys in Florida may no longer shoulder that burden.

New jury instructions adopted by the Supreme Court of Florida, which judges will pass along to jurors, instruct them not to discuss the case through “electronic communication, such as a blog, Twitter, e-mail, text message, or any other means.”  Accordingly, if attorneys want to spend more time preparing their closing arguments than sifting through their jurors’ Facebook profiles, they should consider requesting the following instruction (an excerpt from Florida’s new jury instructions):

“During deliberations, jurors must communicate about the case only with one another and only when all jurors are present in the jury room. You are not to communicate with any person outside the jury about this case. Until you have reached a verdict, you must not talk about this case in person or through the telephone, writing, or electronic communication, such as a blog, Twitter, e-mail, text message, or any other means. Do not contact anyone to assist you during deliberations. These communications rules apply until I discharge you at the end of the case. If you become aware of any violation of these instructions or any other instruction I have given in this case, you must tell me by giving a note to the bailiff.

In reaching your decision, do not do any research on your own or as a group. Do not use dictionaries, the Internet, or any other reference materials. Do not investigate the case or conduct any experiments…Do not visit or view the scene of any event involved in this case or look at maps or pictures on the Internet. If you happen to pass by the scene, do not stop or investigate.

Jurors must not have discussions of any sort with friends or family members about the case or the people and places involved. So, do not let even the closest family members make comments to you or ask questions about the trial. In this age of electronic communication, I want to stress again that just as you must not talk about this case face-to-face, you must not talk about this case by using an electronic device. You must not use phones, computers or other electronic devices to communicate. Do not send or accept any messages related to this case or your jury service. Do not discuss this case or ask for advice by any means at all, including posting information on an Internet website, chat room or blog.”


Social Media Concern # 1 – Time Management

Ethan Wall | March 17, 2011 in Social Media Law & Order | Comments (0)

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Lack of time is one of the primary reasons attorneys avoid social media marketing.  Nearly every time I survey an audience during a presentation on social media and the law, an attorney will declare that they are “too busy” to spend time on social networking sites. To that I say: it’s a legitimate concern.

Attorneys struggle with time management all the time.  We are constantly buried under a myriad of deadlines, emails, and research assignments concerning the applicability of the rule against perpetuities.  How can an attorney add twitter to their to-do list when they are already bogged down their billable hour requirement, preparing for motion calendar, and if they are lucky, squeeze some time in for the family?

According to Social Media for Lawyers: The Next Frontier, the answer is that social media does not require much time once you have made the initial investment in setting up a profile.  First time users of social media may need to set aside a couple hours to familiarize themselves with the big three social media platforms: Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, to determine which sites are best suited best for them.  After determining which site(s) best fit their needs, a newcomer to social media may only need an hour or two to create their own online profile.  More experienced Internet users can set up a profile within minutes.  This is because social media sites are designed to be user friendly and accessible to anyone.

After this initial investment, the amount of time one devotes to social media is entirely up to the individual attorney.  There is no one size fits all approach.  The amount of time an attorney should devote to social media is entirely dependent upon the individual attorney’s goals and ability to manage their time effectively.  Regardless of your specific goals, the following tips can provide you with an effective and efficient use of your time on social media sites:

1.  Limit Your Engagement to One or Two Sites: Each social media site offers something different: Facebook connects you with your friends, family, colleagues, and peers in an informal interactive environment; Twitter allows you to micro-blog in short messages called tweets to update your friends and potential clients on what’s new in your practice or specialized area of law; and LinkedIn is less social, more networking, and is commonly seen as a trusted networking site for business professionals. I recommend LinkedIn if you are new to online networking because it eliminates certain risks associated with social media (such as the ability for third parties to post content on your profile), but provides a valuable benefit because it is highly populated with business leaders in almost every field.  By selecting one site to start with, you can limit your time investment in social media to a level that makes you comfortable.

2. Calendar Blocks of Time: Just like setting aside time on your calendar for legal research or a conference call with a client, you can set aside time on your calendar to address social media at a time that is convenient for you. It can be as often as a few minutes a day, twenty minutes a week, or an hour a month.  Create an email folder that automatically collects notifications from social media sites (such as friend requests and invitations to connect), and use that time you set aside to determine which invitations to accept, what information you want to share about your personal or professional life, and with which people you chose to interact. By setting aside time on your calendar, you have control over your social media use and are networking on your schedule.

3. Network in the Palm of Your Hand: Recent advancements in mobile technology allow you to access any social media site in the palm of your hand.  Any phone or hand held device with access to the Internet enables you to access user friendly social media sites and applications free of charge. Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn applications for your smart phones connect you with peers on the go.  No time to log onto Facebook at the office? No problem.  Connect with your law school classmates on LinkedIn while in line at the grocery store. Tweet about a great result you achieved in court while waiting for the train. The possibilities are limitless. But whatever you do, just don’t tweet and drive.

Your time is important, and I hope that these tips will help you manage social media on your schedule.  Because once you manage to squeeze social media into your busy schedule, you will soon realize the benefits you can experience from just a few minutes of interaction each day.  And for those of you who say they are “too busy” to find a few minutes of time each day, let me help you by telling you exactly what you will hear during tomorrow morning’s newscast: someone one is being bailed out by the government, someone else is very upset about it, and politicians will disagree about who is the party at fault. There, I just saved you thirty minutes each morning. Now there is no reason not to start tweeting!


Social Media Risks v. Rewards

Ethan Wall | March 15, 2011 in Social Media Law & Order | Comments (29)

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Attorneys have long recognized the value of networking.  Show me a lawyer who invests time in creating new relationships, gets involved in his or her community, and actively seeks out potential clients, and I’ll show you an attorney who will be spending more time on the golf course in five years than with their head buried in corpus juris secundum.  Yet, most lawyers are hesitant to engage in the recent explosion of social media and online networking because they do not believe the rewards outweigh the risks.

Trusted legal authorities such as Law.com recognize social media’s potential in the legal industry.  “Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Martindale Hubbell Connected, and LegalOnRamp are just a few of the powerful social media technologies that can help your law firm or company develop and protect its brand and intellectual property; provide client service and deflect complaints; showcase and educate your professionals — and more.”  In the past, attorney networking traditionally occurred at bar association events, professional networking groups, and on the golf course.  Today, these traditional notions of networking are enhanced by an attorney’s ability to reach a broader audience through emerging social media technologies. Online networking sites provide attorneys with the ability to strengthen professional relationships through more frequent contact, connect with a wider range of potential referral sources, and afford attorneys the opportunity to educate the public and empower clients in their trusted area of law.

Notwithstanding these benefits, attorneys often cite a cornucopia of concerns for avoiding social media marketing. Some are afraid of committing ethical violations. Others find social media undignified for lawyers.  And most attorneys are simply too busy to “tweet.”  In the coming months, this blog will highlight the unique benefits of social media for attorneys and address common social media concerns in an attempt to alleviate misconceptions about attorney’s use of social media.

Thursday’s post will address one of the most common concerns: time management and the misconception that social media is too time consuming for a busy lawyer. Do you have a concern you would like addressed in this blog? Leave a comment. Better yet, tweet about it!


Social Media Law & Order

Ethan Wall | March 11, 2011 in Social Media Law & Order | Comments (0)

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Social media is taking the business and legal community by storm.  As of September 2010, Internet users spend more time on Facebook than any other Internet website, including google.  Social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn are prevalent in boardrooms across country, creating unique marketing opportunities by connecting attorneys with colleagues and potential clients from around the world. These interactive sites are also penetrating our courtrooms, providing nearly unrestricted access to online evidence, while presenting unique issues of first impression that require careful attention by the legal and business communities alike.

The Social Media Law & Order blog will survey the effect of social media on the law and provide insightful commentary on this rapidly changing landscape.  The blog will serve as a resource for attorneys on how social media affects their practice, and will offer practical advice on how attorneys can use social media to professionally develop their practice while abiding by the highest standards of professionalism and ethics.  It will also serve as a resource to the business community by providing insight on how social media is expanding business in today’s Internet driven marketplace.

The Social Media Law & Order blog is designed to become your trusted source for insight on social media’s effect on the law and provide order on how this revolutionary platform can be used effectively in the legal and business community.