Web 2.0

Lawyers Networking Online

Posted on March 20, 2009. Filed under: Networking, Social Media, The times they are a'changin', Web 2.0 |

checkmark1The Daily Record published an interesting article yesterday that quoted a number of Rochester lawyers, including yours truly, who are using online networking to their advantage.  The article, “@Lawyers Networking Online” can be viewed in its entirety here.

Here’s the start of the article:

Kids do it. Jurors do it. Even members of the bar do it. Online social networking is more than a time-killer, say some Rochester attorneys, who also use it increasingly as a marketing tool.

Some larger law firms are resisting the trend, however. According to an informal survey reported in the March 2009 edition of Law Practice Magazine, 45 percent of law firms are now blocking access to some social Web sites. The survey, conducted in January 2009 by Doug Cornelius on Zoomerang.com, received 231 responses.

Eighty-five percent of respondents said their law firm blocks access to Facebook; 77 percent said they were blocked from MySpace. Another 55 percent are blocked from accessing YouTube, 26 percent from Twitter and 14 percent from LinkedIn.

Reasons cited by firms for blocking included loss of productivity, increased risk of viruses, confidentiality concerns and bandwidth consumption.

But those who use the sites argue the benefits of networking online far outweigh the risks. Rochester attorney Nicole Black, of counsel to Fiandach & Fiandach and an expert on Web 2.0 technology, said firms that block networking sites simply don’t understand the power of social media.

“It’s just a way to expand your influence and showcase your expertise,” said Black, who personally maintains four separate blogs in addition to Web sites and pages on sites including Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. “I think that the solo practitioners and the small firms are the ones that are going to be the first to use these [online sites] effectively.”
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Are Social and Professional Networking Mutually Exclusive?

Posted on February 10, 2009. Filed under: Networking, Social Media, The times they are a'changin', Web 2.0 |

Drlogo11

This week’s Daily Record column is entitled “Are Social and Professional Networking Mutually Exclusive?”

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

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Are Social and Professional Networking Mutually Exclusive?

Last week I attended the LegalTech conference in New York City.

LegalTech New York is sponsored by Incisive Media and focuses on distributing information about technology and law practice management.

While at the event, I attended a number of seminars regarding Web 2.0 and its application and uses in legal practice-specifically in law firms. A prevailing theme that emerged from many panelists is that online social networking and online professional networking are two very different beasts.

In fact, one of the panelists carried two Blackberrys with him wherever he went —one for his professional network and the other for his social network. His expla- nation for his dual Blackberry methodology is that it helps him keep the two networks separate.

I wonder whether his attempts to keep the two separate is futile, at best, and pointless, at worst. And, even to the extent that online networking can be confined to the professional sphere, doing so is short sighted.

Networking can be loosely defined as “an extended group of people with similar interests or concerns who interact and remain in informal contact for mutual assistance or support.”

The online arena is a perfect place to network and for that very reason online networking has become mainstream. Facebook now has more than million 36 million members, Linked In has 8 millions users and Twitter has more than 3 million and is increasing exponentially in popularity.

The number of online legal networks is increasing as well. Many new forums and networking sites devoted to the legal field have been launched in the last year,  including include Lawlink (lawlink.com), Martindale-Hubbell’s Connected (martin-
dale.com/connected) and the American Bar Association’s legal network, Legally Minded (legallyminded.com).

While it is encouraging to see established legal organizations attempt to participate in the Web 2.0 world, such forums are not, in my opinion, nearly as useful as the mainstream networking sites.

Certainly useful information can be gleaned from the sites; how- ever, busy lawyers have only  a limited amount of time to devote to networking, and their time would be better spent at mainstream online networking sites.

Furthermore, attempting to limit online participation to networks devoted to the legal field is counterintuitive, as is attempting to separate so-called social networking from professional networking.

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.

Separating one’s professional and social online identities and interactions is a mistake. It is the overlap between the two that makes a lawyer more likeable, more approachable and more human.

People would rather hire a lawyer who is person to whom they can relate —someone with whom they can connect — and understand. If you limit your social networking to a circle of people you already know, you miss out on the chance to interact with potential clients on a more personal level.

Successful networking, therefore, doesn’t occur in such a delin- eated fashion and lawyers who believe that they can or should control and separate their online networks in such a way are missing the point. In the process, they’re also missing out on opportunities to connect with others, including potential referrers and clients.

The social and professional arenas are not mutually exclusive. They can and should overlap since it is the overlap that makes all the difference.

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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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