Tag Archives: lawyers

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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Tech Talk With Tom Mighell from Inter-Alia

This is a video from my chat with Tom Mighell, award winning legal blogger of Inter-Alia.

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Tech Talks (New Video Series): Social Media Governance

Check out this new video series I started on our Martindale-Hubbell YouTube channel.  Tech Talks (working title) are video chats with some of the top names in law, social media, and technology.  We have a laid back, 20-minute video chat over Skype discussing your work and anything you want to highlight about what you are doing now.  Future plans include creating two versions of the video: an unedited, basic version posted on YouTube and a premium, directors cut (edited, with music, chapter navigation, and other features), which will only be available in Connected.

If anyone reading this is interested in participating in Tech Talks, please comment below or email my work address at michael.mintz@lexisnexis.com.

Here is the first video I did with Chris Boudreaux from Social Media Governance.  Chris is an interesting guy.  A non-lawyer, he developed a site that houses over 130 social media policies from different companies, a report analyzing the trends in these policies, and a forth-coming publication on the subject.  We spoke about his work, and are going to be working together to get it seen by more lawyers, who I’m sure will benefit from what he has been doing.  Here’s the unedited video:

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Social Media Policy: How Law Firms Add Trust to Your Business Online

I recently gave this presentation to a law firm’s corporate clients in Tel Aviv.  It discusses the need for businesses to partner with law firms to craft a custom social policy, engage employees in continuing policy adherence and revision, and protect against litigation.  You can view and comment here or click through to Slide Share to download.

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Florida Judges Must Unfriend Lawyers on Facebook

YOU want to be friends with ME???

This post comes after a week of discussion on this issue.  The Florida Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee gave an opinion to this ethics question submitted by a judge: can a judge add lawyers who may appear before the judge as “friends” on a social networking site, and permit such lawyers to add the judge as their “friend”?  The answer, a resounding NO.

It is an interesting ethics ruling b/c it intends to curb public perception that a lawyer who is friends with a judge on Facebook will be able to exert influence on that judge.  The committee determined that such activity conflicts with Ethics Cannons 2A and 2B of the Florida Judicial Code of Ethics, which read:

A. A judge shall respect and comply with the law and shall act at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary.

B. A judge shall not allow family, social, political or other relationships to influence the judge’s judicial conduct or judgment. A judge shall not lend the prestige of judicial office to advance the private interests of the judge or others; nor shall a judge convey or permit others to convey the impression that they are in a special position to influence the judge.

(I added emphasis) – you can read the Cannon’s original context on the Florida Supreme Court’s website.

The ethics committee’s advice to the judge’s question was as follows:

“the test for Canon 2B is not whether the judge intends to convey the impression that another person is in a position to influence the judge, but rather whether the message conveyed to others, as viewed by the recipient, conveys the impression that someone is in a special position to influence the judge.  Viewed in this way, the Committee concludes that identifying lawyers who may appear before a judge as “friends” on a social networking site, if that relationship is disclosed to anyone other than the judge by virtue of the information being available for viewing on the internet, violates Canon 2(B).”

Basically, they are saying that people will get the wrong idea if they see lawyers in a judge’s friend list, and so they suggest that judges do not be-friend lawyers on the site.  They did not go so far as to say judges can’t have any friends on the site, just lawyers (the minority opinion called for broader bans).  We will be discussing this and other ethics issues during our late-January 2010 theme on Martindale-Hubbell Connected, Navigating the Ethical Pitfalls of Social Media.

There is a great summary of the issues on the Legal Profession Blog.

So what do others think about this ruling?  Do you think that a lawyer on a judge’s “friends list” can influence that judge in their ruling?  Does a judge belong on Facebook at all?  What about sites like Martindale-Hubbell Connected that consist mostly of legal professionals who might not have the same impression as the general public?  Is there a difference?

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Where Do They Find the Time?

Clay Shirkey, author of “Here Comes Everybody,” posted this great article in 2008 explaining the phenomenon of social media.  It’s not a primer about Facebook or why people should use Linkedin or how lawyers can benefit from being on Martindale-Hubbell Connected (shameless plug), rather he talks about how traditional media folks still don’t really get it.  Sure, they understand that these tools and being in these spaces can help their projects move forward (I don’t think there is an HBO show out there without a blog), but the question in their minds remains: where do people find the time?

Shirkey goes on to talk about television, the great distraction.  He said if you then take the creation of something as vast as Wikipedia and look at it as a unit as of 2008, all of the content, edits, pages, and comments crowd-sourced on Wikipedia had taken 100 million thought hours to create.  Where do people find the time?  The thought hour surplus from watching television in the United States in a single year: 200 Billion thought hours (“that’s 2000 Wikipedia projects per year”).  Imagine if we could harness the power of those wasted hours, “unwinding” in front of meaningless stories crafted to capture our attention towards a bit of advertising that most people cut out via TIVO (don’t worry – they’ll still get you via product placement and in-show ads – ever wonder why so many people in movies and on TV have Apple computers?).

It reminds me of an R.A. Lafferty short story that I once read called, “Polity and Customs of the Camiroi,” where a board of education visits a distant advanced civilization called “Camiroi.”  In this culture, children are working on advanced nuclear physics and other such topics by the first grade (to any Lafferty devotee who may read this: I’m paraphrasing here, so please don’t roast me if I got the grade level wrong at which kids learn advanced nuclear physics.  As I am comfortably typing this in bed, I am too lazy to dig through the book case for my copy of Lafferty to confirm this – if you wish to do so please leave a comment).  The point is that this fictional society placed such a value on time that they race their young through trivial lessons such as finger painting, making cute little crafts, and teaching them colors so they can get to really useful knowledge like applied sciences and quantum theory at an early age.  They bring to mind what might be possible if we took the 200 billion thought hours in America each year and applied them to problems like solving the energy crisis, space and time travel, and fixing the inability of people to merge properly to avoid unneeded traffic (to solve this last one would mean the true evolution of the human race as a species in the universe).

So how does this apply to community management?  After all, it was on a community management message board that I first got the link to the Shirkey article that started this little post.  Speaking from my experience, one of the primary things I hear from lawyers (my target audience) is that to participate in an online community seems time consuming.  As people who primarily get paid by the hour (and sometimes the minute) they do not know how they can spend time creating content and reacting to other peer created content online.  Let’s look at Shirkey again with a dash of David Allen (author of Getting Things Done).

Where do you spend most of your time as a lawyer?  Is it in research (not if you have a huge team of paralegals), talking on the phone with clients, gathering intelligence, writing, golfing, loafing?  I think how specifically you can answer that question (and if you have something like Time Matters software tracking your every move it should be easy) you can then answer the second question: where is your time not being optimally spent?  If you could find a better way of doing existing tasks that would free up your to do more high value tasks, that would be valuable to you and your clients.  For example, if you needed to find out about a particular issue for something you were writing at the end of the week, putting a key question out there on a message board read by other thought leaders on the issue would enable you to have a conversation about it rather than just looking up the results on a search engine and forming a singular conclusion.

The point is that before something becomes normal to us it seems like a big undertaking.  There is no denying that online communities and social media will change the way we do everything.  Just like email did for communications, this new way of interacting will find its way into the everyday business of doing business.  Just like online legal research enhanced the information presented in law books (some even argue turning them into into glorified paper weights and office decoration), community media will replace solitary search, information gathering, and cold calling.  Time will tell whether as a profession we be innovative with this technology and integrate it to our work flows, or remain cautiously on the sideline, accepting it only after many years have gone by bringing something new to weary of.

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