The Ethics of Social Media, Pt. 3 [Slideshow]

Part 1: The Importance of Social Media to the Modern Law Practice Part 2: Marketing Your Practice on Social Media Part 3: Personal Use of Social Media Part 4: Social Media in Discovery Part 5: Social Media as a Research Tool Part 6: Advise Your Clients Wisely! (June 12, 2014) Social media is an important tool for attorneys. Knowledge of its use is important when promoting your firm and advising your clients. However, one aspect of social media that too frequently gets ignored is an attorney’s personal use of social media. We like to think that when we’re “off the clock” that what we say and do reflects only on us personally – and that it should have no direct impact on our professional lives. Unfortunately, that just isn’t the world we live in. Attorneys have to expect that whatever they post on social media will reflect on the attorney and the attorney’s firm. With that in mind, part 3 of my presentation, The Ethics of Social Media, discusses the personal use of social media by attorneys: Ethics of Social Media Part 3: Personal Use of Social Media from Brian Focht We tend to believe that when we’re “off the clock,” we are able to become entirely private citizens, and post to social media are unrelated to our professional lives. The reality is, unfortunately, quite different. Take, for example, the case of Pittsburgh attorney Steven Regan, which I discussed in detail in this article. The situations that one must pay close attention to are numerous, and cover a wide variety of activities. Regardless of what platform you’re using, from... read more

The Ethics of Social Media, Pt. 2 [Slideshow]

Part 1: The Importance of Social Media to the Modern Law Practice Part 2: Marketing Your Practice on Social Media Part 3: Personal Use of Social Media Part 4: Social Media in Discovery Part 5: Social Media as a Research Tool Part 6: Advise Your Clients Wisely! (June 12, 2014) As you saw in Part 1, Social Media is a tool that lawyers can ill-afford to ignore. It’s used by essentially everyone: your family, your friends, your clients, your judge, your competition. Understanding how to use social media, and even more importantly – understanding how to use it ethically, is critical for lawyers in the 21st century. One of the best ways a lawyer can harness social media to improve their practice is to utilize the phenomenal marketing capabilities found on social media. However, before you dive headlong into promoting your practice on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other sites, you need to make sure your marketing complies with ethical rules. In Part 2 of my presentation, find out how to promote your firm on social media, ethically: The Ethics of Social Media Part 2: Marketing Your Law Practice from Brian Focht The real story about the ethics of social media is that lawyers must remember that the rules still apply! All the general rules that you apply to your other types of advertising will apply generally to advertising on social media: Make sure that your advertisements aren’t false or misleading; If you compare your services to that of another attorney/law firm, be sure you have objective information to back up your comparisons; Only post testimonials that you have personally fact-checked;... read more

The Ethics of Social Media, Pt. 1 [Slideshow]

Part 1: The Importance of Social Media to the Modern Law Practice Part 2: Marketing Your Practice on Social Media Part 3: Personal Use of Social Media Part 4: Social Media in Discovery Part 5: Social Media as a Research Tool Part 6: Advise Your Clients Wisely! (June 12, 2014) Lawyers aren’t the best at adapting to trends in technology, so it’s really no surprise that we haven’t taken to Social Media very well. Most practicing attorneys are likely quite happy to live and work in absolute ignorance of what’s being said on Twitter and the best new video on Vine. However, as time goes by, the fact of the matter is, social media is here to stay. However, just knowing about social media probably isn’t going to be sufficient to remain relevant nowadays. Before you dive in headfirst, make sure you’re equipped to survive (or at least enough so you won’t routinely commit egregious ethical violations)! This presentation is a guide for attorneys through the complex world that is the Ethics of Social Media. In Part 1, I explain the what and the why of social media involvement for lawyers. Check it out: The Ethics of Social Media Part 1: Social Is Necessary from Brian Focht Social media is becoming more and more necessary for lawyers, and not just so that you can follow your favorite celebrities while at work. Social media can impact an number of aspects of your law practice, not least of which is your clients and their cases. In Lester v. Allied Concrete Co., Nos. CL08-150, 09-223, the plaintiff, who filed a wrongful death lawsuit... read more

5 Major Social Media Trends for Lawyers in 2014

For many firms, social media is already a major part of advertising their services to potential clients. Yet for others, it’s a mere afterthought (if it exists at all). When used poorly, its value is limited, if not downright negative. When used effectively, as part of an overall marketing strategy, social media can be a tremendous benefit to any firm. Whether you’re skeptical about its uses or not, nobody can argue with the fact that the world of social media moves quickly. Keeping up with social media trends can be tough for anyone. With that in mind, here are 5 Major Social Media Trends for Lawyers in 2014: 1) Take advantage of new options to improve your firm’s social media pages. One of the most important things that any company can do is use all available opportunities to educate potential clients. This education must begin with your company’s basic biographical information. On social media sites, that means a complete company bio page. Failing to take advantage of social media by leaving portions of your firm bio blank is unacceptable. In 2014, there are two new tools that law firms can utilize to increase the amount of information potential clients can get from their social media pages: LinkedIn Showcase Pages and the Twitter Profile Pages (currently in beta testing). LinkedIn Showcase Pages are essentially “highlight” pages for your LinkedIn Company Page. For my guide on improving your LinkedIn Company Page, click here. Designed to allow your company to emphasize certain aspects of your business, LinkedIn Showcase pages are perfect for highlighting your firm’s top practice areas. Twitter’s new profile pages, while not... read more

eDiscovery and Social Media: The Duty to Preserve

The rise of Social Media has created numerous questions and issues when it comes to our ethical responsibilities. Can we advise clients to modify their Facebook page to make sure there are no offensive posts should a juror decide to look them up during trial? How about suggesting selective edits of certain portions of an Instagram page, or suggesting that a client add certain items to a Pinterest page to look more socially acceptable? All of these situations implicate an important ethical responsibility lawyers have regarding potential evidence: the duty to preserve. While it is ethically permissible to advise a client on actions they may take in the future, courts have come down hard on litigants and attorneys who have failed to preserve evidence contained in Social Media accounts. Here are several important rulings regarding the duty to preserve social media evidence from 2013: In Gatto v. United Air Lines, Inc., No. 10-CV-1090-ES-SCM, 2013 WL 1285285 (D. N.J. March 25, 2013), the court found that the plaintiff’s actions to deactivate his Facebook account during litigation amounted to spoliation of evidence. In Gatto, plaintiff’s Facebook account had been the subject of numerous discovery requests and at least one discovery conference. Id at *1-2. Plaintiff even adjusted the password to give defendants access, although discussion about the extent of access defendants would have was ongoing. Id. However, after being notified of access to his Facebook account from an unknown IP address, plaintiff deactivated his account. Id. Facebook permanently deleted the account information, and the court held that it was likely that, contrary to plaintiff’s assertions, he had taken steps beyond simple... read more

Tweets of Wrath: This Attorney Didn’t Listen (Part 2)

Illinois Attorney Betty Tsamis, the subject of my article Tweets of Wrath: This Attorney Didn’t Listen, has received a reprimand for violating ethical rules regarding client confidences and maintenance of her client trust account. Ms. Tsamis is most recognized for her reaction to her client’s Avvo review, which I discuss at length in the above-cited article. The full text of the decision can be read here, but the decision is notable in that it appears to go to great lengths to avoid discussion of her violation of the rules regarding the Avvo review. In fact, the sanction itself appears to be primarily based on her violation regarding management of her trust account. None of the mitigating factors appear to directly address her conduct regarding the Avvo review, and none of the language that Ms. Tsamis consented to even mentions her conduct in responding to the review. The reprimand itself even omits the actual language of Ms. Tsamis’s response that allegedly violated attorney-client confidentiality. Speaking to the ABA Journal, one of Ms. Tsamis’s attorneys said: “While we believe that Ms. Tsamis’ conduct was within the [ethics rules], this matter raises an important issue for all lawyers—especially those who are active on attorney-review websites and have the opportunity to comment on client reviews posted to these types of websites. “Lawyers should be cautious that if they choose to respond, that their response does not exceed what is necessary to respond to the review and should be mindful that they do not reveal client confidences in violation of the rule. Ms. Tsamis recognizes the importance of Rule 1.6 and the need to... read more

6 Ways to Avoid Expensive Pay-Per-Click Advertising Mistakes

Advertising on the Internet is a different and unique medium for promoting your product or service. Nothing serves as a better example than the incredibly popular – and effective – Pay-Per-Click advertising. By creating an ad and selecting the appropriate keywords, your ad pops up when users enter those keywords into their search. Unlike traditional forms of advertising, you only pay for the advertising when someone clicks on your ad. Pay-per-click advertising is incredibly popular among lawyers, in particular. In fact, the keywords “attorney” and “lawyer” are among the ten most expensive keywords on Google’s AdWords PPC program. Given the cost, you really need to make sure that you’re getting the most you can get from your pay-per-click advertising campaign. Here are 6 Ways to Avoid Expensive Pay-Per-Click Advertising Mistakes: 1) Check your local ethics rules Let’s be honest, this should be your first step when considering any advertising venture. It would be rather silly to spend time and money on an ad campaign only to get slapped with an ethics charge that could have easily been avoided. As a unique form of advertising, PPC ads have their own ethical issues that go along with them. On top of making sure you meet all the regular advertising requirements, you need to check your local rules to find out if there are any specific requirements regarding the keywords you choose. In North Carolina, it’s considered misleading under the rules to use the name of a competing law firm as a keyword, in an attempt to direct some of their customers to your site. While this particular rule does not apply... read more

5 Totally Fixable Ways Law Firms Suck at Using Social Media

It’s hard to start doing something without knowing how to do it, particularly when you look around and see others doing it with ease. Whether its swinging a golf club, painting a picture, or learning an instrument, there’s a reason why nobody is able to do those things perfectly (with a few notable exceptions) right away. It takes time and energy to increase skill, and experience teaches many lessons. Yet starting that process as a novice while those around you are experts isn’t fun. That’s the position most attorneys find themselves in when it comes to using social media. Other industries that adopted social media sooner (okay, all industries other than medicine) have invested time and energy into their social media plans. They’ve had the practice, and – importantly – learned from mistakes, and they’re better for it. Getting the most out of social media requires practice, patience, and experience. It requires time and investment. It also takes a willingness to challenge your preconceived notions about social media. Sadly, too many attorneys refuse to invest the time and energy needed for using social media, and end up doing it badly. Many of the problems, though, could be fixed with a little patience. Here are 5 Totally Fixable Ways Law Firms Suck at Using Social Media: 1) Assuming that simply being on Social Media equals engagement. My favorite version of this particular issue isn’t actually about a lawyer. For years, Warren Buffett wasn’t on Twitter was because he was technology averse. That was it, he wasn’t on Twitter. Until May 2, 2013, when he sent his first tweet. As of... read more

A Better Firm Website: 4 Steps to Know (and Track) Your Audience

Part VII in a continuing series on improving your firm’s website Part I: 7 Tips to Improve Your Bio Page Part II: 5 Best Practices for your Practice Areas Part III: Video is a Game Changer Part IV: 4 Reasons You Should Blog Part V: 3 Videos You Need to Have Part VI: 4 Reasons to Ignore SEO Part VII: 4 Steps to Know (and Track) Your Audience So, you’ve actually taken the steps to improve your firm’s website. You updated all of your attorney bio pages and re-wrote the description of your firm’s practice areas to provide potential clients with the information they need. You started posting blog articles and even put up a couple videos describing your biggest cases. Now it’s time to find out what works and what doesn’t. How do we do that? Analytics. Sure, it’s nice to have basic information about how many page views your website has in a day or month, but as I’ve said numerous times, a website is advertising. Or, as expressed perfectly by FindLaw’s Strategist: “When it comes to marketing your law firm, your website is your online presence.” You’re spending money on your site, so you need to be able to determine whether you’re getting value for your money. That’s where analytics tools come in, and they can be phenomenally valuable. Here are my 4 Steps to Know (and Track) Your Audience: (My preferred analytics tool is Google Analytics, a free system that links to your site. If you use WordPress, Jetpack offers a very basic analytics tool, but it doesn’t provide nearly as much information. If there are other analytics programs... read more

A Better Firm Website: 4 Reasons to Ignore SEO

Part VI in a continuing series on improving your firm’s website Part I: 7 Tips to Improve Your Bio Page Part II: 5 Best Practices for your Practice Areas Part III: Video is a Game Changer Part IV: 4 Reasons You Should Blog Part V: 3 Videos You Need to Have Part VI: 4 Reasons to Ignore SEO Part VII: 4 Steps to Know (and Track) Your Audience Based on the number of articles that I see every day, it would seem that SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is quite an important issue today. At least for internet marketing companies. Their pitch? Let us come in and re-work your website so that you’ll rank at or near the top in search engine results. These searches, referred to as “organic searches,” are the ones where you type in a word or phrase that the engine uses to pull your results. By knowing how those results are organized, marketers claim they can optimize your website to exploit those systems. Sadly, their pitch routinely works, especially on lawyers. If you’re getting frustrated with the level of success (or lack thereof) you’ve achieved from your internet marketing, you definitely want to look for ways to improve. However, here are 4 reasons to ignore SEO as part of your strategy: 1) Most attorneys do not benefit by improving their search engine rankings. With the narrow exceptions of attorneys who handle traffic and DUI matters, and to a considerably lesser extent, personal injury lawyers, most attorneys’ business does not come from organic searches. Before even considering paying a marketing service for SEO improvement, ask yourself whether your ideal client is... read more
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