Archive for June, 2009

Five things lawyers should know about social media

Posted on June 30, 2009. Filed under: Networking, Social Media, The times they are a'changin', Web 2.0 |

Drlogo11

This week’s Daily Record column is entitled “Five Things Lawyers Should Know About Social Media.”

A pdf of the article can be found here and my past Daily Record articles can be accessed here.

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“[S]ocial media is a shift in how people discover, read and share news, information and content. It’s a fusion of sociology and technology, transforming monologues (one to many) into dialogues (many to many) and is the democratization of information, transforming people from content readers into publishers. Social media has become extremely popular because it allows people to connect in the online world to form relationships for personal, political and business use. Businesses also refer to social media as user-generated content (UGC) or consumer-generated media (CGM).”

— WIKIPEDIA ENTRY FOR SOCIAL MEDIA

Online interaction is now commonplace. Networking sites, including Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, are becoming mainstream. Opportunities for attorneys to connect and interact with potential clients are endless.

Before jumping on the “social media” bandwagon, however, there are a few important things about social media that lawyers must comprehend. The failure to do so will result in unsuccessful and disappointing forays into the online marketplace.

Social media is useless without goals

Come up with a plan, then interact online.

Is your goal to appear higher in search engine results, showcase a particular area of expertise, or interact with other attorneys in the same practice area? Would you like to target local or national clientele?

The answers to those questions necessarily affect your overall social media strategy.

Learn about social media. Figure out how it works and how it can work for you. Then, implement a social media strategy that promotes your goals. Be patient. Results don’t occur overnight.

Different social media sites serve different purposes

An entire firm does not need to actively participate in social media, but a few lawyers should be familiar with emerging Web 2.0 technologies and the ways in which those technologies can help and harm a firm’s bottom line.

At the very least, all members of a firm should have online profiles which include their areas of practice posted at LinkedIn, Justia and Avvo. It’s free to create profiles at those sites, and doing so allows you to piggyback on the SEO (search
engine optimization) of large, established sites.

Facebook is another site to consider. It allows lawyers to re-connect with people they’ve lost touch with, opening up an entire network of potential client and referrers.

If a lawyer enjoys writing and is passionate about a particular area of the law, blogging is the perfect way to showcase the lawyer’s expertise and writing skills,
while simultaneously increasing SEO (due to the unique characteristics of blogs) and humanizing the attorney.

Twitter is ideal for lawyers seeking to expand their national network, increase their exposure and connect with influential people in all major industries.

Lawyers don’t have to participate in every form of online interaction, but one way or another, participate and ensure the chosen forums promote the firm’s overall goals.

‘Social media’ is a misnomer

Some lawyers discount the potential of “social media” due to the incorrect assumption that it’s got nothing to do with business and is all about socializing. This is a serious mistake.

All online interactions, whether they are with other lawyers, old friends, or people you’ve just met and with whom you share a similar interest have the potential to benefit your career.

Social and professional networking necessarily overlap. A person’s interests are not limited to their profession unless, of course, the person is an unbelievably one dimensional and boring human being.

People are more than their careers. Lawyers are more than their law firms. Which brings me to my next point:

People want to hire other people, not businesses

While it is important to have a static website for your business, it is equally important for lawyers to cultivate a uniquely individual online presence as well.

The best way to do this it to take off your “lawyer hat”. Talk to people, not at them. Interact, don’t advertise. And, most importantly, share a little bit about yourself and your interests.

It is the overlap between the social and the professional that makes a lawyer more likeable, more approachable and more human.

People want to pick up the phone and call a specific person —not an intimidating, faceless entity —when they have a problem. Large businesses hire law firms; people hire other people.

Lawyers cannot afford to be left out of the loop

Attorneys who successfully leverage social media tools to communicate, collaborate and network have a distinct advantage over those who don’t.

Stand out from the crowd. Use online resources to your advantage. Take advantage of the opportunity to interact with potential clients and referral sources.

Be patient, persistent and positive. Use social media wisely and narrowly tailor your online activities toward the pursuit of specific goals.

Take my advice and you will see results. I guarantee it.

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The Court of Appeals “gets it” when it comes to technology

Posted on June 24, 2009. Filed under: Uncategorized |

Drlogo11
This week’s Daily Record column is entitled “The Court of Appeals “gets it” when it comes to technology.”

A pdf of the article can be found here and my past Daily Record articles can be accessed here.

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It is indisputable that technology is changing the world and the practice of law. Technological advances have increased our ability to rapidly disseminate information, and lawyers and non-lawyers alike have used this to their benefit.

Of course the Internet is the obvious medium that comes to mind, but the advent of the fax machine was the beginning of a revolution in the rapid exchange of information.

For years now, lawyers have used the fax machine to communicate and to conduct business.

One lawyer’s creative attempt to use this medium to share information with other lawyers resulted in a lawsuit against him that ended up before the New YorkCourt of Appeals.

From 2003 to 2005, Andrew Lavoot Bluestone, a New York attorney and law blogger (New York Attorney Malpractice Blog, http://blog.bluestonelawfirm.com) who represents plaintiffs in attorney malpractice matters, used fax machines to distribute an “Attorney Malpractice Report” to other attorneys. The reports
included short essays regarding attorney malpractice issues and included his firm’s contact information and Web site addresses.

An attorney who had received a number of these reports commenced a lawsuit against Bluestone alleging viola- tions of Telephone Consumer Protection Act of (TCPA) 1991.

Bluestone was represented on appeal by attorney Scott Greenfield, author of the well-read blog Simple Justice (http://blog.simplejustice.us).

Last fall, the Third Department concluded that Bluestone’s faxes violated theTCPA:  “While Bluestone contends that his faxes were purely informational and do not explicitly offer services, his position defies common sense. The faxes at issue certainly have the purpose and effect of influencing recipients to procure Bluestone’s services, which are for the specialized field of legal malpractice claims.” Stern v. Bluestone, 47 AD3d 576 (Third Dept. 2008).

However, last week, the New York State Court of Appeals over- turned the Third Department’s ruling concluding that the primary purpose of the faxed reports was informational rather than promotional:  “We conclude that Bluestone’s ‘Attorney Malpractice Report’ fits the FCC’s framework for an ‘informational message.’ … In  these reports, Bluestone furnished information about attorney malpractice lawsuits; the substantive content varied from issue to issue; and the reports did not promote commercial products. To the extent that Bluestone may have devised the reports as a way to impress other attorneys with his legal expertise and gain referrals, the faxes may be said to contain, at most, ‘[a]n incidental advertisement’ of his services, which ‘does not convert the entire communication into an advertisement’ (Id.).” Stern v. Bluestone, 2009 NY Slip Op 04740 (2009).

This is an important decision for New York law bloggers, whose numbers have increased exponentially since I began blogging in 2005. Although the court’sdecision was limited to its interpretation of certain provisions of the TCPA, its rationale applies equally to the vast majority of law blogs.

The primary purpose of most law blogs is the dissemination of information. Like Bluestone’s “Attorney Malpractice Report,” blogs educate the reader about a subject matter that is unrelated to the self-promotion of the blogger.

Certainly increased visibility of the blogger is a byproduct of the publication of a successful blog; and as a result of that visibility, new clients may follow.

But, that doesn’t mean that the primary purpose of the blog is the retention of clients.

In comparison, I think that most people would agree that the primary purpose of television and radio ads, billboard ads, professional Web sites and yellow page ads is the retention of clients. Blogs are different because the primary purpose of blogs—sharing information —is separate and distinct from the self-promotion that is the essential element of most advertisements.

Thankfully, the court’s decision in Stern v. Bluestone is a strong indication that the highest court in New York understands this distinction. The court understands that lawyers’ creative use of emerging Internet technologies is, in many instances, simply an extension of traditional networking activities, including speakingat a seminar, authoring an article in a legal publication, distributing a newsletter via e-mail or joining a committee at the local bar association.

It’s good to know that the highest court in New York “gets it.”

Do you?

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Are You Considering Twittering? Ways to Cut through the Noise

Posted on June 16, 2009. Filed under: Social Media, The times they are a'changin', Web 2.0 |

checkmarkMy recent article about lawyers and Twitter, published in the ABA’s Law Practice Management magazine, can be found here and is set forth in full below:

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Are You Considering Twittering? Ways to Cut Through the Noise

If you haven’t tried Twitter, here’s why you should, with a look at new resources that add value to Twitter for lawyers.

BY NICOLE BLACK (@nikiblack on Twitter)
Not that long ago, social networking sites such as Facebook and LinkedIn were thought of as novel. Today, they are considered relatively commonplace forms of networking on the Web. What has everyone abuzz now is Twitter. But a lot of lawyers are wondering what the conversation has to do with them.

As you may have noticed, the popular press is downright atwitter about Twitter. It is the social media site du jour. It seems you can’t read a newspaper or turn on the TV without hearing something about the microblogging site, whether it’s a news item breaking in the Twitter community, a mistrial being declared because of jurors using Twitter, or celebrities like Ashton Kutcher, Oprah Winfrey and Shaquille O’Neal growing their Twitter followings.

As a result of all the attention, Twitter’s user base continues to grow exponentially. While the data varies, estimates are that the number of unique visitors per month has now climbed to above 14 million or beyond.

In case you’ve been living in a cave, Twitter is a free Web-based platform for quickly sharing information through text-based posts (“tweets”) of up to 140 characters in length. And a growing number of lawyers and law firms are using it to expand their networks and increase their online presence.

Others, though, remain doubtful of the value. Let’s look at why they should get past that—which includes the fact that there are many new resources that add value to Twitter for lawyers.

Notes for the Reluctant

With Twitter, you can connect on both personal and professional levels with potential clients and referral sources, share news and substantive updates relevant to your area of practice, and connect with other lawyers as well as non-lawyers with whom you share similar interests. And it can all be done locally, nationally or globally, according to your needs.

Yet despite the benefits, it’s understandable why many lawyers are reluctant to participate. One reason is the knowledge that existing and potential clients are all over Twitter and “listening” to what you have to say. Add to that the fact that conversations on Twitter are permanently archived and accessible through Internet search engines. So there is a natural worry about the risk of making a painfully public error. But the same risk is inherent in other forms of online communication, and the answer to this worry about Twitter is the same, too.

You need to ensure that any posts you make reflect well on both you and your law practice. So the best course of action is to think before you post. Still, everyone occasionally makes mistakes, so should you innocently write something that you later regret, you simply apologize for the error. Historically, admitting and correcting mistakes quickly and with minimal fanfare serves to head off long-term damage. Again, though, the smartest thing to do is pause and think twice before posting any comments.

Another factor that discourages lawyers from participating on Twitter is the sheer volume of the Twitter universe. With all the millions of people who are twittering already, many wonder how it is possible to cut through the “noise” and locate relevant people to connect with or “follow,” as

well as how to find threads of tweets of value to their practice areas. This concern, however, is increasingly easy to address. The answer lies in a growing range of resources that categorize users by industry or business areas and filter content by type of subject matter. Let’s look at some of the main resources of interest to lawyers now.

Finding People and Law-Related Content

There are a number of ways to locate people you would like to connect with on Twitter. One option is to refer to online directories such as Twellow (www.twellow.com), Just Tweet It (www.justtweetit.com) and We Follow (www.wefollow.com). These directories conveniently categorize Twitter users in a wide spectrum of areas, from aerospace and accounting, to small business and emerging market, to nonprofit, real estate, technology and beyond. You can review the directories to seek out people with whom you’d like to connect based on their type of business.

There are also a number of specific ways to locate legal professionals on Twitter as well as to track their conversations. One is through the JD Scoop blog on JD Supra (http://scoop.jdsupra.com). There you will find what began as a list of “145 Lawyers (and Legal Professionals) to Follow on Twitter”—a list that has rapidly expanded to over 700 lawyers, as this writing. You will also find a list of subject-based legal news feeds that are on Twitter. The listed accounts stream legal news and documents posted by lawyers, law firms and other legal professionals.

In addition, there are two relatively new online directories of legal professionals who are on Twitter, both of which aggregate the Twitter streams of those included in the directories: Justia’s LegalBirds (www.legalbirds.com) and LexBlog’s LexTweet (www.lextweet.com).

Another way to find law-related conversations is via the Legal Tweets blog (www.legaltweets.com), which tracks legal topics currently being discussed on Twitter. The conversations are filtered to include trending issues and are edited to highlight the most salient points being discussed. (Disclosure: Legal Tweets is moderated by the author of this article.)

And yet another Twitter resource specifically for legal professionals is TweetLaw (http://tweetlaw.com), a new entrant in the field. Here, users complete a profile page and choose from among 30 categories to describe their practices. This site provides streams of law tweets and enables users to connect with other TweetLaw users in their field.

More Ways to Keep Up with the Stream

In addition to using the preceding sites, there are other ways to help ensure you hit the mark in where you spend your time on Twitter. Importantly, you can track conversations using hashtags. Hashtags are simply codes that consist of a hash mark (#) followed by a word or phrase—for example, “#lawyers” or “#probatelaw.” They are added at the end of Twitter posts to indicate that the tweet relates to a specific subject matter or event. Hashtags create a context for the tweet and allow other users to quickly search for tweets regarding certain topics using Twitter’s built-in search tool (http://search.twitter.com).

You can look up the meaning of particular hashtags by using Tagalus (http://tagal.us), one of the newest searchable glossaries of hashtags.

Another valuable way to organize the constant stream of new tweets is by using a desktop client program such as Tweetdeck (www.tweetdeck.com) or Twhirl (www.twhirl.com), or a Web application like Tweetree (http://tweetree.com). These programs make the Twitter interface more user-friendly, in part by making replies from other users easier to locate. The Tweetdeck platform is particularly popular because it allows you to organize your followers into groups, while simultaneously keeping track of your conversations on Twitter.

You can also use Twitter applications on your smart phone to keep up with the conversation stream. Two popular iPhone Twitter applications are Tweetie (www.tweetie.com) and Twitterific (www.twitterific.com).

Arguably, the most popular BlackBerry application is Twitterberry (www.twitterberry.com). Other Black-Berry applications to consider are Twibble (www.twibble.com) and Tiny Tweeter (www.tinytweeter.com).

As you can see, there are a number of tools to help lawyers make the most of their tweet time. Remember, too, that it only takes a short amount of time to set up a Twitter account and familiarize yourself with the site and the applications that increase its functionality. Granted, there is a small learning curve, but once you’ve learned to navigate Twitter, you may find that it is a very effective way to extend your online presence.

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Nicole Black is of counsel to Fiandach & Fiandach in Rochester, NY. She coauthors the West-Thomson treatise Criminal Law in New York and writes a weekly column for the Daily Record. She also provides legal technology consulting through www.lawtechtalk.com.

WEB 2.0 The term Web 2.0 was coined to reflect the interactive nature of the modern Web, where new tools have emerged to allow everyone—including lawyers—to contribute commentary, collaborate instantly and work digitally in formerly unimaginable ways. In this column, we invite savvy legal technology experts to write about tools and tactics that lawyers can use to leverage the power of the Web 2.0 (r)evolution.

Editor, Steve Matthews, is principal of Stem Legal Web Enterprises and a member of Law Practice ’s Editorial Board. If you have ideas to share or topics to suggest, contact him at steve@stemlegal.com. Steve blogs at www.stemlegal.com/strategyblog.

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New blog

Posted on June 15, 2009. Filed under: Uncategorized |

checkmarkIf you’re a foodie, check out my newest blog, The Epicurean Esquire.  Thanks!

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Free Presentation-“Web-based Law Practice Management Systems”

Posted on June 10, 2009. Filed under: Uncategorized |

Lawtechtalk4 For a limited time, the 3rd episode of lawtechTalk, “Web-based law practice management systems” can be viewed for FREE.

This screencast (a recording of computer screen output along with video of me discussing what is seen) will focus on three web-based law practice management systems.  We’ll discuss the concepts of SaaS (software as a service) and “cloud computing” and will explore the main features of  each to help you figure out which will best meet your needs.

This screencast is a little under one hour long and is sponsored by the three SaaS (software as a service) companies featured in the screencast: Clio, LawRD, and Rocket Matter and will be available for viewing at no cost until Sunday June 14th.  Simply contact lawtechTalk for information regarding how to access this screencast.

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