Category Archives: Legal

Seth Godin’s Linchpin and Mastering the Art of Social Media Policy

Daniel A. Schwartz, author of the Connecticut Employment Law Blog posted about one of the presentations from Legal Tech back in February 2010.  His post, Social Media Policies and Practices Developing as Companies Begin to Embrace It, gave some details from the panel discussion by the following in-house lawyers: Lesley Rosenthal (Lincoln Center), Ted Banks (former in-house at Kraft), and Mark Bisard (American Express).  Check out Daniels post here.
The panelists basically discussed how social media policy is becoming a more recognized form of policy for a company to have.  Ted Banks spoke up as say that employees can become disheartened and resentful of too restrictive a policy.  I left this comment in response:
I am most in agreement with Ted about social media presenting an opportunity to companies to engage their creative employees and let them flourish.  This requires clear guidelines that are flexible enough to allow for employees to be artists in what they do.
Seth Godin describes this really well in his new book Linchpin (if you haven’t checked it out yet, it is a must read).  His general point is that corporate work trains obedience, being just good enough, and waiting for orders.  To thrive in today’s world we need employees who are artists.  They contribute value, connect to customers in ways that are human, and can make a real impact that propels the company.  These people are linchpins.
Rigid guidelines choke the life out of such employees.  Demanding metrics over artistry mechanizes the processes, makes it sub par, and outsourceable.  It’s why companies like Apple and Google, the leaders in business, thrive and are adored.  Other companies say they want to be like Apple or Google, but this just means they want to be loved while producing mediocre results.
Any social media policy should be a guideline.  Your employees are smart enough to know what they should and shouldn’t do (if not – get new employees).  A good legal department balances the need of the company to have a policy in place they can point to if something goes wrong, with the need for employees to be free enough to create without fear of censorship, backlash, or worse.  It is a risky game, but one with great rewards if done right.

A social media policy is not some revolutionary mysterious thing.  It is a policy.  Likely a policy no one will read anyway.  Where companies experience mastery is when they do things that are risky, things that ordinary policy making would cry “NO! Don’t do that!”

Notice I said risky.  Not stupid.  As a member of the  legal department it is your job to protect the company, but realize that your employees are likely smarter than you think they are.  Also, they are more creative than most of us realize.

If your management creates a linchpin culture where employees take risk, reach for greatness, and share their gifts then your policies at best should be guidelines to help amplify that.  If you have an assembly line amassing Twitter followers than perhaps you want something more rigid that will meet the CYA standard.  All I’m saying is that in a world where everybody is on Facebook, the winners are those who can connect with customers in ways that automation cannot.

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Connected Pulse Interview: Jason Romrell, GC of InsuranceLeads.com

Jason Romrell, General Counsel for InsuranceLeads.com values practical value over philosophy any day. Not to say he isn’t deep (ask him about diving for golf balls), but Jason brings a “can-do” type of attitude to his work that breaths success into companies. In this video we discuss the ALM Social Media Risks and Rewards conference and find out what job he’d NEVER like to do.

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Connected Pulse Interview: Carolyn Elefant Explains the Beauty of Going Solo

Last month I had the pleasure of speaking to a real pioneer in the legal industry.  Carolyn Elefant has been blogging (or blawging if you prefer) since 2002.  Her blog MyShingle.com is a testament to commitment and a wealth of information for anyone looking to start their own law practice.  We discussed a host of things and even found out her favorite word … you’ll never guess what it is.

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Connected Pulse Interview: Antone Johnson, Former GC of e-Harmony

We sat down with Antone Johnson, Principle of Bottom Line Law Group and former GC of e-Harmony and one of the original lawyers at MySpace. He spoke about technology, growing companies through international expansion, and even told us his favorite curse word in our new feature “Inside the Lawyer’s Studio.”

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Law Firm Success in Social Media: Streaming Law Content?

One of my favorite destinations on the web, Real Lawyers Have Blogs, by social media master Kevin O’Keefe, posted about law firms streaming law content onto social media sites.  Check out Kevin’s post, where he takes the position that doing so is awkward and goes against social media etiquette.  In my comment to his post, I take the opposite approach, saying that I think it is perfectly acceptable for law firms to stream law content to social media sites, provided what they are streaming adds value to that target audience.  Different content will have different usefulness in different communities.

Here is my comment:

You definitely get social media Kevin!  I’m not sure I agree with you about there being no value in a law firm distributing content on social media sites.  While the party analogy is a good one to describe etiquette on social sites, generally, it under-describes the use of social media as a communication tool.

For law firms looking to build relationships on social sites like Facebook and Linkedin, sharing generously from the content they offer that can solve a need for a potential client on those sites is the essence of social media.  It is when they pepper these sites with any crap they have lying around that it becomes social spam.  To be successful in this space a law firm needs to know who they are reaching in which area and provide content that can solve a problem for that target client.

For example, streaming a pleading or court filing to a consumer facing Facebook group might not resonate as well as an FAQ or basics of practice area article.  More in depth materials might strike a cord with a group frequented by corporate counsel clients, where you are sharing resources such as forms or memorandums.  It all depends on the context and usefulness to your audience.

The tone in which it is shared can say a lot too.  Are you sharing this content so someone can adapt it for their practice or so a client can ask intelligent questions when they come to you for advice (or not need to come to you at all for a simple matter)?  Are you asking for feedback, trying to start a sharing wave (I’ve shown you mine, now you show me yours), or stir up a conversation with something spicy like firm newsletter on a controversial topic?

Social media has no rules.  We are at the beginning of a revolution.  Think of what it would be like to have been around in 1463, just 5-years after Guttenberg invented the printing press as we know it.  At that time, people were just figuring out that printing existed let alone how to use it commercially and socially.  Law firms who jump into the social media game now, define the rules, and lead with useful participation will be in a great position to develop business in the new online world.

As Kevin asked, what do people think of this?  Unique questions to answer here: in what context do you think it best for a law firm to stream content from their site to a place like Facebook?  Should it be on the Law Firm’s group or fan page?  What about to a group about a certain subject matter, such as litigation?

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Fair Use Online and in Discussion Forums

Patrick O’Keefe who writes a fantastic blog at ManagingCommunities.com posted about fair use in forum postings.  This is an interesting topic given the shifting nature of consumer behavior on the web.  We are part of a gimme culture these days, expecting lots for free that folks used to make bundles of money on (news, music, analysis – today we call them “blogs,” etc.).  In Patrick’s article he attempts to provide clear guidelines on fair use, correctly telling members that “fair use is a defense” to claims of infringement by the copyright holder.

I would argue that as much as fair use is a “defense” it has become a culture and guideline.  As I say in my comment to his blog post (reprinted entirely below – it’s my work so fair use doesn’t apply!), even the courts have been fuzzy on fair use.  How much is too much?  We’ve heard standards like don’t take “the heart of the work,” 150 words or less, and no more than 10% of the work.  What my comment speaks to is how we are becoming used to more use as a digital culture and that this might not be fair to traditional copyright ownership.

Okay – comment number 2 for your blog today Patrick and then I have to get back to work (my cousin, Howard Greenstein, recommended your work to me yesterday). You have correctly identified it as a defense to copyright infringement allowing the excerpting of small portions of a work.  Courts have been in the gray area with fair use because the more granular you go the harder it is to carve out.  When you start getting into word counting or fractions of a work it can be a nightmare.

Blogs and social sharing are doing some interesting things to fair use. As tools like “share this,” embedding, and quote posts have become so common place on the web we are seeing a greater flexibility in what may be considered fair use.  For example, on my blog Mintz’s Wordz I do a lot of embedding of YouTube videos (most recently a bunch of Steve Jobs Keynotes).  Now the displaying of these videos on my blog theoretically violates some of the rights of the copyright holder (a copyright or any property right can be compared to “bundle of sticks” – each stick can represent a different right in what we understand to be the bundle called “the copyright”).  But given the embedding features on YouTube, the prevalence with which others embed such videos, and the unlikelihood of anyone following up on such postings – copyright culture is changing.

This is not to say that you shouldn’t enforce fair use policies or that copyright holders should allow everyone to freely take their work (unless that is your thing).  What it means is we need to rethink what it means to permit “fair use” in a viral media landscape.  How much is fair?  Personally, I use a very sophisticated system for determining things like fair use, ethics, etc.  It’s called “the icky factor.”  If it feels icky, you might want to rethink doing it, because in a connected world ickiness gets sniffed out pretty quickly and can frustrate any benefits you may have thought to reap by being icky.

How do you think copyright ownership should change in light of the viral web?  Do we need a more clear standard of fair use or a more flexible one?  How much do you think is fair?

Disclaimer: nothing in here should be construed as legal advice.  Answering my questions in the comments does not create a lawyer/client relationship (hell, I’m not even practicing at the moment!).  Blah, blah, blah ….

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Seth Godin’s Linchpin and Mastering the Art of Social Media Policy

Daniel A. Schwartz, author of the Connecticut Employment Law Blog posted about one of the presentations from Legal Tech last week.  His post, Social Media Policies and Practices Developing as Companies Begin to Embrace It, gave some details from the panel discussion by the following in-house lawyers: Lesley Rosenthal (Lincoln Center), Ted Banks (former in-house at Kraft), and Mark Bisard (American Express).  Check out Daniels post here.
The panelists basically discussed how social media policy is becoming a more recognized form of policy for a company to have.  Ted Banks spoke up as say that employees can become disheartened and resentful of too restrictive a policy.  I left this comment in response:
I am most in agreement with Ted about social media presenting an opportunity to companies to engage their creative employees and let them flourish.  This requires clear guidelines that are flexible enough to allow for employees to be artists in what they do.
Seth Godin describes this really well in his new book Linchpin (if you haven’t checked it out yet, it is a must read).  His general point is that corporate work trains obedience, being just good enough, and waiting for orders.  To thrive in today’s world we need employees who are artists.  They contribute value, connect to customers in ways that are human, and can make a real impact that propels the company.  These people are linchpins.
Rigid guidelines choke the life out of such employees.  Demanding metrics over artistry mechanizes the processes, makes it sub par, and outsourceable.  It’s why companies like Apple and Google, the leaders in business, thrive and are adored.  Other companies say they want to be like Apple or Google, but this just means they want to be loved while producing mediocre results.
Any social media policy should be a guideline.  Your employees are smart enough to know what they should and shouldn’t do (if not – get new employees).  A good legal department balances the need of the company to have a policy in place they can point to if something goes wrong, with the need for employees to be free enough to create without fear of censorship, backlash, or worse.  It is a risky game, but one with great rewards if done right.

A social media policy is not some revolutionary mysterious thing.  It is a policy.  Likely a policy no one will read anyway.  Where companies experience mastery is when they do things that are risky, things that ordinary policy making would cry “NO! Don’t do that!”

Notice I said risky.  Not stupid.  As a member of the  legal department it is your job to protect the company, but realize that your employees are likely smarter than you think they are.  Also, they are more creative than most of us realize.

If your management creates a linchpin culture where employees take risk, reach for greatness, and share their gifts then your policies at best should be guidelines to help amplify that.  If you have an assembly line amassing Twitter followers than perhaps you want something more rigid that will meet the CYA standard.  All I’m saying is that in a world where everybody is on Facebook, the winners are those who can connect with customers in ways that automation cannot.

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Filed under Legal, social media