Third-Party Social Media: Ethical or Not?

A new company in Dallas, Texas, WiredForPR.com, is offering third-party social media engagement and blogging services for lawyers and law firms. As detailed by one of my new heroes Kevin O’Keefe in his blog, Dallas attorney/journalist Stephanie Dube Dwilson* is offering a service to lawyers who want to have social media engagement, but  don’t have the time or inclination to do it themselves. (Hereinafter “Ms. [D]Wilson” due to her site and her resume – available here – being inconsistent.) Yet with all that has been published about the potential pitfalls of failing to properly monitor your firm’s social media engagement, can you ethically rely on third-party social media? Wired For PR Ms. [D]Wilson’s website lists the services available to lawyers and law firms in what appears to be a deliberately restaurant-menu style. Beginning with a narrative discussion of what her site offers, Ms. [D]Wilson states: “Your involvement can range from, ‘Set it and forget it,’ to, ‘Run everything by me first no matter what.’ What I mean is this; as a journalist and a licensed lawyer, I can maintain your blog and social media sites with minimal supervision. Most of my clients, however, like to review every single communication before it is released – and I am more than happy to oblige.” All blog articles are ghostwritten, the site explains, and are written by a team of authors that are supervised by Ms. [D]Wilson. “Rest assured that nothing reaches the client’s desk until it has received my personal stamp of approval,” the site states. The Price of Third-Party Social Media The site offers three tiers of complete, hands-off packages for clients: For... read more

More Security Problems for Dropbox?

Two hackers are reporting, in a paper they published at USENIX 2013 conference, that they have found more security problems for Dropbox. Using a code published along with their other findings, were even able to intercept SSL data from the Dropbox servers, completely bypassing the two-factor authentication system. The paper, which reports that the purpose of the project is to aid in future development of advanced security systems for software programs such as Dropbox. This is not the first time that hackers have exposed vulnerabilities in the Dropbox system by academic researchers. A previous security vulnerability was discussed in a previous article. Dropbox, which according to the American Bar Association is the preferred cloud-based data storage provider for attorneys, claims over 100 million users worldwide, reporting upward of one billion file uploads daily. PR representatives from Dropbox claim that the research does not actually demonstrate any vulnerabilities in their system. “We appreciate the contributions of these researchers and everyone who helps keep Dropbox safe,” a spokesperson said in an email reply to Computerworld. “In the case outlined here, the user’s computer would first need to have been compromised in such a way that it would leave the entire computer, not just the user’s Dropbox, open to attacks across the board.” The authors of the paper, Dhiru Kholia, with the Openwall open source project and a faculty member at the University of British Columbia, and Przemyslaw Wegrzyn, with CodePainters, reported that they do not believe that Dropbox has not been adequately analyzed for security. Their system, detailed in a recent PC World article, is based on reverse-engineering the Dropbox program. Using the reverse engineering, they... read more

A Better Firm Website: 7 Tips to Improve Your Bio Page

Part I 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 A law firm’s website is only as good as its content. So, in my quest to help you improve your firm’s website, content is where I’ll begin. That covers a lot of ground though, so let’s think of this from an advertising agency’s point of view. The ad agency’s goal is to put the most important items where the readers eyes fall first or most. That way, the most important information is right where the potential customer is most likely to look. For most law firms, the attorney bio pages are, by far, the most viewed part of the site (according to one study, the bio pages may account for as much as 56% of law firm website traffic). It’s the place where most of your potential customers are going to be won or lost, so the renovation of your firm’s website begins there! Here are 7 Tips to improve your bio pages: 1) Make sure your site is written for your potential customers, not for you! Too many people want their website to serve as a glorification of themselves; a shrine to legal and educational accomplishments over a lawyer’s lifetime. However, your website is advertising, not Narcissism 101. An easy way to improve your bio... read more

Hackers’ Newest Target: Lawyers

Frightening news out of corners of the security world, the ABA Journal is reporting that hackers’ newest targets include lawyers and law firms. “Cybercriminals tend to focus where the weak spots are,” says Gerhard Eschelbeck, chief technology officer at Sophos, a computer security firm, “[and] law firms are soft targets.” Eschelbeck said that, unlike the movie versions, the hackers he’s talking about are not pimply-faced nerds, or Matthew Brodderick in his parents’ house, but rather nation-states looking for valuable information. “Law firms need to understand that they’re being targeted by the best, most advanced attackers out there,” says Shane M. McGee, general counsel and vice president of legal affairs at Mandiant Corp., a cybersecurity firm. “These attackers will use every resource at their disposal to compromise law firms because they can, if successful, steal the intellectual property and corporate secrets of not just a single company but of the hundreds or thousands of companies that the targeted law firm represents. Law firms are, in that sense, ‘one-stop shops’ for attackers.” So what can be done? As I reported last week in my discussions about the “Bring Your Own Device” (BYOD) movement (BYOD: 5 Steps to Protect Your Client and Save Money and 10 Tips for Developing Effective BYOD Policies), one of the biggest keys is coming up with a policy that will be enforced firm-wide, with universally applicable consequences. What other ways can you and your firm best protect yourself from hackers? The article had these suggestions: Secure all mobile devices by having your IT department/consultant encrypt your sensitive data; Ensure that any contracts you have with cloud-based data... read more

Four Alternatives to Dropbox to Meet Your Firm’s Storage Needs

A little while back, I wrote an article about the security hazards posed by using Dropbox as your firm’s go-to cloud-based data storage, and why you might want to consider alternatives to Dropbox. While ideal for collaboration and portability of documents, the potential security risks inherent in using Dropbox are significant, unless you adopt specialized encryption software. Other major security issues include that one time when they turned off the password requirement for millions of accounts, stripping them of the little security they had. Those security threats are made even more serious when you consider that the recent ABA Tech Survey reported that Dropbox was, by far, the preferred cloud-based data storage service for attorneys. Well, again a tip-of-my-hat to the guys over at PC World, as they have come up with a list of four alternatives to Dropbox, ideal for small businesses such as law firms. 1) Spider Oak Free Storage: 2GB (same as Dropbox) Pricing: $100/year for 100GB, $600/month for 1TB (100 users) Best option for: Security Spider Oak, a cloud-based data storage service that already has numerous advocates in the legal field, is a fully secure online storage and syncing service. All of your data, and your password, are fully encrypted (using a combination of 2048-bit RSA and 256-bit AES encryption). Additionally, unlike the privacy policy at the heart of Dropbox’s little issue discussed above, SpiderOak has a “zero-knowledge” privacy policy, meaning that not even employees of SpiderOak have access to your documents without your password. This little feature also means you’d better freaking remember your password! SpiderOak has a desktop client, available for Windows, Mac... read more

10 Free Open-Source Alternatives for Small Business

Running a small business, particularly a small law firm, can be expensive. Among all the things you need to pay for, such as office supplies, equipment, and support services, none are as routinely expensive as purchasing software. One license of Microsoft Office will usually run over $200 per user. Little relief can be seen in the future, either, as the subscription models that are available now are even MORE expensive (Office 365, which is flawed and incomplete, will run you $150 per user, with undefined costs to continue using the program in the future). So the fine folks over at PC World have done us all a HUGE favor by creating a list of 10 available open-source alternatives to replace those ridiculously expensive software packages that we have all thought were a necessary and unavoidable part of small business. Without further ado, the 10 Best (but in no particular order) Open-Source Alternatives for Small Business: 1) Office Suite: Libre Office Sporting a full suite of programs, including word processing, spreadsheet, presentation, database, and drawing, LibreOffice is Microsoft Office in a free package. It even uses the exact same file types (e.g. .docx, xlsx, etc.) so that you can easily import documents you already have, view files sent by others, and send your files to people who use the Microsoft Office tools. They even sync with online Content Management Systems and online document storage to provide for easy collaboration. 2) Email: Thunderbird (by Mozilla) Another replacement for (what some believe to be) the overpriced Microsoft option that is used by most businesses: Outlook. Instead of shelling out the $95 per... read more

Maximizing Your Law Firm’s LinkedIn Company Page

When you sign on to LinkedIn, you are probably most concerned with news about your contacts and making sure that your individual page looks good. It’s a professional social media site, so it is most definitely important to keep your information up-to-date and aesthetically pleasing. However, I’d be willing to bet you don’t put nearly that much thought into your law firm’s LinkedIn company page. If you read this blog regularly or keep up with the ABA’s annual technology surveys, you know that LinkedIn is THE choice for lawyers and law firms when it comes to social networking. This weekend, an excellent article in the Kansas City Business Journal, reviewed brilliantly by Kevin O’Keefe’s Real Lawyers Have Blogs, discusses some of the best ways to maximize your law firm’s LinkedIn company page, which for many, is a mere afterthought. LinkedIn has over 200 million users and over 3 million company pages. Considering that 98% of attorneys surveyed by the ABA reported that they use LinkedIn. Law firms need to consider the possibility that the first impression many attorneys and other professionals will have of their firm is from their LinkedIn company page. Why is this important? Just think about how much of your firm’s business in the past year came not from online advertisement or foot traffic, but from referrals or recommendations made by other attorneys!  Suddenly, your law firm’s LinkedIn company page is beginning to take on the same level of importance as your firm website, isn’t it? Well, not to worry, there are plenty of resources out there to provide guidance. Citing the Kansas City Business Journal article, Kevin... read more

10 Tips for Developing Effective BYOD Policies

Earlier this week I wrote about the rise of the “Bring Your Own Device” (BYOD) paradigm in modern business. What I did not discuss in detail was the best way to develop effective BYOD policies to guide your firm in the future. These policies will address how you protect your vital client information and firm data while allowing attorneys and staff the flexibility that mobile devices provide, along with the comfort of using their own devices. As such, it is CRUCIAL that the policies are developed with an eye toward the future, and are not assembled haphazardly. Here are my 10 Tips for Developing Effective BYOD Policies: 1) Development of the policy must be transparent and inclusive. This policy will govern what devices your attorneys and staff can use, how they can use them, and will, most likely, limit the ways they can use their devices for personal use. Remember that you’re still pitching this whole program as being beneficial, without regard for the fact that you’re actually pushing a business expense onto your staff. Therefore, everyone should feel like they had input. (For outside assistance, you can always check out some of the mobility management programs, like this one offered by CDW.) 2) The policies must be universal, in both applicability and enforcement. Nobody likes it when someone is able to “pull rank” to avoid doing something that everyone else has to do. Even worse is when someone higher up on the food chain is caught doing something against company policy, but there are no repercussions. For a policy to be effective, everyone has to follow it. The... read more

Top 10 Office Tools You Need to Have (But Didn’t Know Existed)

Scouring the recent news about technology in the law firm and in the courtroom, I came across a wonderful slideshow put together by the guys over at PCWorld.com that informed me that there was office equipment and gear that I didn’t even realize that I needed.  Everyone seems to have little things that bother them in day-to-day activities around the office, or things that could be improved, but had long since accepted the status quo.  Not anymore!  Without further ado, the Top 10 Office Tools you Need to Have… but didn’t know existed! (In no particular order): 1) The Logitec K310 Washable Keyboard That’s right, a keyboard that can be WASHED!  Look at your keyboard right now. Go ahead, I know it’s gross. There’s the crumbs under the keys that have petrified over time, the food smudges on the keys that don’t get used quite as much, and the sticky spot underneath the arrow keys from the soda you spilled last spring. You simply thought it was time to buy a new keyboard… Until now! Equipped with a crumb and dust brush snapped to the underside of the keyboard, it can also be fully submerged in up to 11 inches of water. Price: $40 2) Personify Personify is a Software-as-a-Service program that uses depth sensing cameras (such as Microsoft Kinect cameras) to imbed video of you into your online presentations, allowing you to interact while you present. The perfect software for giving presentations online to groups in remote locations, Personify allows you to navigate through your presentation using the Personify app, or even just your own gestures! There’s even... read more

Tweets of Wrath: Social Media and the Disgruntled Client

“Sticks and stones may break your bones, but words will never hurt you,” admonished every single mother, I imagine, for the entire history of human kind. It’s probably even in some of those ancient cave glyphs that have been found. It’s a fundamental tenet of New Testament Christianity, that one will demonstrate their strength in their ability to “turn the other cheek,” to refuse to dignify the petty assault of another. Today, it seems sometimes like it would take the internal, divine fortitude of a deity to handle some of the fierce attacks that one can find almost daily on Twitter or Facebook. Then one morning, you’re flipping past pictures of your friends’ kids on Facebook, when you see that one of your former clients, unhappy about the result of their case, has decided to post a comment on your firm’s page calling you… … a   Hey, let’s face it, today’s social media allows anyone to say pretty much anything, and to do so before their “better angels,” so to speak, can prevent them. It’s done on accident all the time! Yesterday, even Dr. Phil (allegedly) had to delete a post from his twitter account after a poorly thought out question led some to wonder whether he was condoning rape if the woman was intoxicated (I’m pretty sure he doesn’t, but you get it). Another fact of life we all have to deal with is that there will ALWAYS be clients who will be upset with the services we, as attorneys, provide. So you’ve received some really nasty reviews from a former client, that you consider to be... read more
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