Social Media

Don’t Fear Technology-Change is Good.

Posted on January 23, 2009. Filed under: Practice Management, Productivity, Social Media, The times they are a'changin', Uncategorized, Web 2.0 |

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Technology (already) invades the courtroom

Posted on January 13, 2009. Filed under: criminal law, Social Media, The times they are a'changin', Web 2.0 |

Drlogo11
This week’s Daily Record column is entitled “Technology (already) invades the courtroom.”

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

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Technology (already) invades the courtroom

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: The times they are a-Tech- nological advancements are affecting courtrooms across the country, much to the consternation of many in the legal profession who staunchly resist technological change.

Two recent events — a decision from Appellate Division, First Department and live reporting of a trial via Twitter — are further examples that technology is here, and it’s here to stay.

At the end of December, the First Department handed down its decision in People v. Wrotten, 2008 NY Slip Op 10226. At issue in Wrotten was whether the trial court erred in allowing the complainant to testify at trial via two-way, televised video.

The court held that the trial court improperly admitted the testimony since New York statutory law did not specifically provide for it, but also noted:

At the very least, even assuming that [the] defendant’s Sixth Amendment right of confrontation was not violated, she was denied a valuable component of that right. In our judgment, in the absence of express legislative authorization, depriving [the] defendant of a face-to-face meeting with her principal accuser — indeed, the person whose testimony was necessary for the prosecution to make out a prima facie case — tainted the fairness of the trial.

The majority and the dissent in Wrotten noted that for a variety of constitutional and procedural reasons, federal and state courts are split on the issue of allowing a witness’ court testimony via a live, two-way video feed.

While the law regarding live televised testimony remains unsettled, one thing is certain: It’s an issue that won’t go away.

Another technology trend that only will increase with the passage of time is live reporting of trials via micro-blogging services such as Twitter.

Twitter is a free, Web-based communications platform that allows users to share information with others with similar personal and pro- fessional interests. Users communicate using text-based posts (“tweets”) of up to 140 characters in length.

Twitter has more than 3.2 million accounts registered, and its user base is expanding quickly. Twitter can be used in a variety of unique ways, which are evolving constantly.

Courtrooms are not immune from the effects of the popular phenomenon, as reporters increasingly seek to use Twitter to report live in the midst of trials.

The most recent example occurred in a Colorado courtroom. Wichita Eagle reporter Ron Sylvester sought to post to his blog and Twitter throughout the trial. As he explained on his blog, What the Judge Ate for Breakfast, his intention to do so stemmed from historical tradition:

The notion of public courts predates our Constitution and even the Magna Carta. There are records of public trials following the Saxon invasion in England, where trials were held on the public square of villages. Our public squares now include Twitter.

Over the objections of both the prosecution and defense counsel, the trial judge allowed the use of cell phones and computers in the courtroom during the child abuse trial.

Last week, Sylvester chronicled the happenings of the trial. At one point, he posted on Twitter about an evidentiary issue:

-Getting ready for pretrial hearing of George Tiller, Day 2. 9:58 a.m. yesterday from txt

-Judge Owens has called the hearing to order. He is ruling on whether Kline has to turn over personal diary to Tiller’s attorneys. 10:28 a.m. yesterday from txt

-Kline gets to keep his diaries private. 10:32 a.m. yesterday from txt

-Owens ruled that ‘work product’ applies to prosecutors, such as notes on opinions and theories of a case. 10:32 a.m. yesterday from txt

Many found it fascinating to watch the trial unfold live, as it happened, rather than reading accounts of it after the fact. Technology made that possible.

Technology has invaded our lives, our homes, our offices, our courtrooms. Technological change has made a lot of things possible that once were unimaginable.

Technology is here to stay. There’s no looking back. Let’s accept that fact and move forward, shall we?

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2009-The Year of Change

Posted on January 2, 2009. Filed under: Social Media, The times they are a'changin', Uncategorized, Web 2.0 |

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The Future is Now

Posted on December 30, 2008. Filed under: Networking, Social Media, The times they are a'changin', Web 2.0 |

Drlogo11

This week’s Daily Record column is entitled “The Future is Now.”

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

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The future is now

It’s time for the legal profession to pull its collective head out of the sand when it comes to technology, the Internet and Web 2.0.

Technology is here to stay and ignoring it no longer is an option.

Law firms and lawyers who turn a blind eye to technology do so to their own detriment, and their failure to acclimate to rapid technological change is going to catch up with them in 2009.

Like it or not, technology has infiltrated nearly every aspect of life. All kinds of information, including the very latest news, is available online. Phone numbers, addresses and contact information for of every type of business is readily accessible on the Internet. Shopping can be accomplished quickly and securely with the click of a button. Music can be downloaded from iTunes. Movies and television shows can be instantaneously streamed through Netflix or Hulu.com directly to a high-definition television via a laptop.

Likewise, technology has infiltrated the legal profession and leveled the playing field in ways never before seen. Small offices now can compete on even footing with large law firms.

Entire offices can be operated remotely using reasonably priced Web-based tools and applications. Documents can be stored securely on remote servers. Law offices can use Web-based practice management and time and billing applications such as Rocket Matter in lieu of the complicated and expensive software traditionally used by the legal profession.

Virtual law offices now are a reality and the value of online real estate has increased exponentially in recent years. With just a little effort, and minimal expense, solo practitioners can create a strong online presence that competes with that of larger firms.

A well-written law blog and polished profiles and content at JDSupra, Avvo, LinkedIn, and Facebook can do wonders for a lawyer’s search engine ranking. Online networking with lawyers and other professionals through Twitter and other online networks can lead to a steady stream of business.

By way of example, over the last six months I’ve received referrals from other lawyers across the country as a result of networking on Facebook and Twitter.

Potential clients from across New York State have contacted me through my blogs, Twitter and Avvo. I’ve also had former clients call me after locating me via Internet search engines.

I’ve been preaching about technological change for years now, as have many other cutting edge, influential lawyers from whom I’ve learned a great deal: Carolyn Elefant (www.myshingle.com), Susan Cartier Liebel (www.solopracticeuniversity.com), Grant Griffiths (www.homeofficewarrior.com) and Kevin O’Keefe (www.lexblog.com), to name just a few.

It seems the legal field is finally starting to sit up and take notice. Facebook has become mainstream. Law blogs are all the rage.

When I began blogging in 2005, no one knew what a blog was. Now law firms, big and small, are launching blogs at an unprecedented rate.

The legal profession is just beginning to acknowledge the power of technology and the Internet. That’s a start, but reluctant acceptance simply is not good enough.

The legal profession must learn to embrace, not fear, the changing landscape. There is still a demand for legal services, and there always will be – technology has not changed that fact. Technology has altered the playing field and the rules of the game by changing the ways in which legal services are marketed, sold and purchased.

The change is not temporary, but permanent. Lawyers who accept and embrace that fact and position themselves for the future – rather than denying its reality – will prosper and profit in 2009 and beyond.

Will you be one of those lawyers?

-Nicole Black

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Fellow lawyers, tweet this!

Posted on December 5, 2008. Filed under: Networking, New Media 101, Social Media, Web 2.0 |

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Can Lawyers Afford to Ignore Social Media?

Posted on November 25, 2008. Filed under: Social Media, The times they are a'changin', Web 2.0 |

Drlogo11

This week’s Daily Record column is entitled “Can Lawyers Afford to Ignore 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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Can Lawyers Afford to Ignore Social Media?

Social media is radically altering our world.

People of all ages are increasingly relying on the Internet and mobile-based tools to share, discuss, and disseminate information.

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.

It is not necessary for each and every lawyer in a firm to learn the ins and outs of social media. But at least one person, or group of persons, depending on the size the firm, should be familiar with emerging Web 2.0 technologies and the ways in which those technologies can help and harm their bottom line. Other lawyers in the firm likewise should be receptive and listen to their recommendations regarding social media.

You need look no further than the recent historic presidential election to see evidence of the far-reaching effects of social media. President-elect Obama’s campaign used many forms of social media, including Facebook, Twitter and text messaging, to interact with and motivate supporters.

President-elect Obama has continued to connect with the public by harnessing the power of social media. A Web site designed to ease his transition into office was established within days of the election. The Web site incorporates a blog, which provides information regarding the transition process and invites input from its readers.

A corresponding YouTube channel, has been created, and includes videos of the weekly presidential address, as well as other events, such as the recent meeting of the Energy and Environment Policy Transition Team.

By using the latest technologies —readily available and affordable social media platform—President-elect Obama, an attorney who will soon hold the highest office in the country, will connect and interact with millions of his constituents in a way never before seen.

The superiority of Internet technologies over many traditional methods was exemplified just last week Google announced that it was working with the Center for Disease Control to track flu trends.

Google’s Web site explained methodology behind the unique and unprecedented collaboration:

Certain search terms are good indicators of flu activity. Google Flu Trends uses aggregated Google search data to estimate flu activity in your state up to two weeks faster than traditional flu surveillance systems.

Such emerging social media trends are extremely important to lawyers, and lawyers who ignore them do so to the detriment of their practice.

Just ask Dallas attorney Dale Markland, a seasoned practitioner who received a crash course in the power of social media when a letter that was critical of him was widely circulated and discussed online.

Shortly after that abrupt and awkward introduction to the viral effect of social media, Markland established an online presence of his own in a last ditch effort to control the potential damage to his reputation.

As he explained on the Web site, its primary purpose was to refute the allegations contained in the original letter:

On Sept. 26, 2008, a Houston attorney, Jeff Murphrey, sent a letter to me [Markland] related to his cancellation of a deposition in an on-going lawsuit that he and I were involved in. Someone sent that letter to internet blog sites and distributed it through mass emailings such that basically the entire world has had a chance to read Mr. Murphrey’s letter, and apparently many have. … This is my statement regarding the events and the contents of the letter.

Markland learned the hard way. Lawyers hoping to avoid his predicament would be well advised to stay abreast of the changing landscape of social media.

Knowledge is power. Smart practitioners will choose to learn about and appreciate the effect of emerging and affordable technologies upon the practice of law. Lawyers who fail to do so most certainly will pay the price.

–Nicole Black

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Gen Y, the Recession and Obama-Changing the Legal Landscape

Posted on November 14, 2008. Filed under: Networking, Social Media, The times they are a'changin', Web 2.0 |

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Twitter 101 for Lawyers

Posted on November 4, 2008. Filed under: Networking, Social Media, The times they are a'changin', Web 2.0 | Tags: , |

Drlogo11

This week’s Daily Record column is entitled “Twitter 101 for Lawyers.”

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

On Twitter I am @nikiblack.  You can follow me here.

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Twitter 101 for Lawyers

While I’ve often repeated my recommendation that lawyers ought to take advantage of the networking and micro-blogging service, Twitter, I’ve yet to explain how to do so.

Not surprisingly, it is the “how” that matters because, at first glance, Twitter seems like anything but the wonderful tool that it is.

First things first —what is Twitter? Twitter is a free, Web-based communications platform that allows users to share information with others who have similar personal and professional interests. Users communicate using text-based posts (“tweets”) of up to 140 characters in length.

Twitter currently has more than 3.2 million accounts registered, and its user base is expanding quickly. Companies and individuals use Twitter in a variety of unique ways, which are constantly evolving.

For example, large businesses, including Jet Blue and Wegmans, use Twitter to provide information and, occasionally, personalized customer service. Sen. Barack Obama’s presidential campaign uses Twitter to connect with and update supporters. News outlets such as the BBC use Twitter to rapidly disseminate breaking news.

In some cases, news breaks on Twitter before the major news outlets report on it, which happened during the recent earthquake in California. California-based Twitter users were the first to “tweet” about the earthquake as they experienced it.

Of course, you’re probably wondering whether Twitter has any value to you as a lawyer. It does. With Twitter you can network with other lawyers across the country and the world; promote your practice and its Web site or other online presence; receive news updates relevant to your area of practice and connect with potential clients or referral sources.

Twitter is an invaluable resource, as long as you know how to use it. The first step is to create an account at Twitter.com. Make sure to choose a user name that is easily recognizable and promotes your practice.

The next step is to locate people and organizations you’d like to follow, including people you already know, those who practice in the same area of law, potential clients and users with similar personal interests. There are a number of ways to do this.

Locate people you already know by running your Web-hosted e-mail address through Twitter’s system. (You’ll be prompted to do so when you first sign up.) Once you’ve connected with people you know, check their follower lists and “follow” anyone who interests you.

Online directories, such as Twellow, conveniently categorize Twitter users for you. Review the directory to locate people with whom you’d like to connect.

Recently, two really useful lists were published by JD Supra (an online platform that allows lawyers, law firms and legal professionals to publish and distribute work online to a wide audience) at their blog, JD Scoop.

Both lists were created by Adrian Lurssen. The first is a list of “145 Lawyers (and Legal Professionals) to Follow on Twitter.”

The second is a list of “Legal News Feeds on Twitter.”

You also can search Twitter using Summize to locate people who are discussing topics that interest you. For example, if you’re interested in wine, you can run a search for “wine” and other wine-related terms to locate other oenophiles.

After you’ve located people and companies, consider using a Web application such as Tweetdeck or Twhirl, which make the interface far more user-friendly by allowing you to organize and keep track of your conversations on Twitter.

Once you’ve set up an account and connected with a few people, start Tweeting about your day-to-day law practice, your firm’s blog or other online presence, news of interest to you and your followers and any other topics that interests you.

Engage in conversations with other users by responding to their Tweets. Simply type “@username,” then add your comment.

It only takes a short amount of time to set up an account and familiarize yourself with Twitter. Once you do, you may wonder how you ever practiced law without this amazing resource.

-Nicole Black

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Technology, social media and the Penal Code.

Posted on October 7, 2008. Filed under: criminal law, Social Media, The times they are a'changin' |

This week’s Daily Record column is entitled “Technology, social media and the Penal Code.”

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

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Technology, social media and the Penal Code.

While working on the annual update for the West criminal law treatise that I co-author, “Criminal Law in New York,” I noted with interest the effect of the increasing use of social media and technology on New York’s penal code and interpretive case law.

Not surprisingly, the crime of Aggravated Harassment, which prohibits certain forms of harassing or annoying communication, soon will be amended to keep pace with the concepts of “communication” and “data storage,” which always are evolving as a result of technological advancements.

Effective Dec. 3, Penal Law §240.30(1) will be amended to prohibit a person from communicating or
causing communication to be initiated, whether anonymously or otherwise, “by telephone, by telegraph, or by mail, or by transmitting or delivering any other form of written communication, in a manner likely to cause annoyance or alarm.” Also effective Dec. 3, a new subdivision will be added to Penal Law §240.30, to clarify the meaning of subdivision one, providing that “[f]or the purposes of subdivision one of this section, ‘Form of written communication’ shall include, but not be limited to, a recording as defined in subdivision 6 of section 275.00 of this part.”

Penal Law §275.00 defines “recording” as “an original phonograph record, disc, tape, audio or video cassette, wire, film, or any other medium on such sounds, images, or both sounds and images are or can be recorded or otherwise stored, or a copy or reproduction that duplicates in whole or in part the original.”

Rapid technological changes and the increasing use of social media, likewise, have required New York courts to grapple with issues of whether the use of new forms of communication violate the crime of Aggravated Harassment.

In People v. Rodriguez, 19 Misc.3d 830, 860 N.Y.S.2d 859 (Crim.Ct. 2008), the court noted that messages transmitted through MySpace, an online social networking site, can constitute Aggravated Harassment, as long as there is evidence that the communications were unwelcome.

Similarly, in M.G. v. C.G., 19 Misc.3d 1125(A), 862 N.Y.S.2d 815, (Fam.Ct. 2008), the court concluded that e-mails also are a form of communication and, thus, can constitute Aggravated Harassment. In another case, text messages sent using a cellular telephone were held to violate this statute. People v. Limage, 19 Misc.3d 395, 851 N.Y.S.2d 852 (Crim.Ct. 2008).

Not surprisingly, another area of the Penal Law affected by technological change is Article 275, which sets forth offenses related to unauthorized recordings.

One recent case of interest is People v. Colon, 46 A.D.3d 260, 847 N.Y.S.2d 44 (First Dept. 2007). In
Colon,the defendant was accused of selling pirated music and, subsequently, was convicted of failing to disclose the origin of a recording in the second degree.

On appeal, the defendant argued his inclusion of the manufacturer’s Web site address on the allegedly pirated music satisfied the address requirement of Penal Law §275.35, precluding his conviction. The First Department disagreed, concluding the term “address” refers to a physical location, as opposed to an Internet address.

The holding surprised me. Arguably, the legislative intent of the statute is to ensure credit where credit is due, and it seems the defendant in this case did just that. A Web site provides far more information about the manufacturer than the physical address does, and the physical address most likely can be found on the Web site, in any event.

I suspect that, with the passage of time, ideas that were once universally understood, such as that of an address, will become more malleable as technology alters the landscape of our lives. Clearly, such adaptation occurs more easily with the concept of communication as opposed to that of location.

While the courts, initially, may resist the rapidly changing conceptual framework of our culture, eventually, as in the case of the Aggravated Harassment statutes, change will occur.

–Nicole Black

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Social Media Latest Networking Tool for Lawyers

Posted on July 8, 2008. Filed under: Networking, New Resources, Social Media, Web 2.0 |

This week’s Daily Record column is entitled “Social Media Latest Networking Tool for Lawyers”

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

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Social Media Latest Networking Tool for Lawyers

“Social media is an umbrella term that defines the various activities that integrate technology, social interaction, and the construction of words, pictures, videos and audio. … Social media or social networking (one example of social media) has a number of characteristics that make it fundamentally different from traditional media such as newspapers, television, books and radio. Primarily, social media depends on interactions between people as the discussion and integration of words builds shared-meaning, using technology as a conduit.”

— Wikipedia entry for social media

All lawyers understand the importance of networking.

Interacting with colleagues, current clients and potential clients is a surefire way to increase business opportunities and referrals.

In the past, networking traditionally occurred in many forums, including events sponsored by bar associations or other professional organizations, on the golf course or while participating in community activities. Not all lawyers relished the concept of networking, but the general school of thought was that it was a necessary part of doing business, and staying cooped up in an office day in and day out was counterproductive to rainmaking.

With the recent explosion of social media and online networking opportunities, however, traditional notions regarding network- ing may no longer be applicable. The time-tested, traditional methods certainly still apply, but emerging social media technologies are expanding networking opportunities exponentially.

Social media appears in many forms, including e-mail, blogs, online forums and message boards. The ability to network with other lawyers and potential clients from the comfort of your office, on your own terms and your own schedule, is now a reality.

The only drawback to this new form of interaction is that it is not time tested, and its effectiveness has yet to be proven. Nevertheless, opportunities to network online are increasingly available and lawyers who ignore the possibilities do so to their own detriment.

Examples of social media applications that facilitate professional and social networking include Facebook, LinkedIn and, most recently, micro-blogs such as Twitter.

Facebook, likely the most well known of the three networking sites, originally launched as a social net- work for college students, but was opened to the public in September 2006. While it remains predominantly a social network- ing site, it can provide valuable professional networking opportunities for lawyers.

Over the last year, lawyers have flocked to Facebook in droves and created networking groups centered around various areas of practice. It is a cost-free and useful way to meet other lawyers from across the country and to re-connect with law school and undergraduate colleagues.

LinkedIn is a free online professional networking site that consists of a membership “of more than 20 million experienced professionals from around the world, representing 150 industries.” Its primary goal is to increase business opportunities for members by providing the ability to connect with potential clients, employees, employers and other members of their profession. LinkedIn has been around for a while now and shows promise. Only time will tell if it will live up to its potential as a professional networking resource.

One of the newer, emerging technologies seeing a huge amount of growth is Twitter. In my opinion, it is one of the most promising professional networking resources available.

Twitter is a free networking and micro-blogging service in which conversations occur in, at the most, 140-character snippets. Once a member, you can locate others with similar interests or backgrounds through a directory such as Twellow (www.twellow.com), then follow and reply to Twitter posts.

There has been a great influx of practicing and non-practicing lawyers onto Twitter in recent months, allowing for exchanges on topics such as recent court decisions and law practice management. In addition to facilitating law-related discussions, Twitter allows member to get a good feel for the people with whom they converse, since posts also include people’s thoughts regarding their day-to-day activities and current events.

Emerging social media technologies are leveling the playing field and changing the way lawyers interact and network. Time- tested and proven networking methods should not be abandoned, but astute attorneys will recognize the potential for increasing one’s professional network by taking advantage of free, online networking opportunities

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