Social Media for Attorneys: Don’t be a Luddite Lawyer

Social Media for Attorneys: Don’t be a Luddite Lawyer

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Social Media for Attorneys: Don’t be a Luddite Lawyer

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Social Media for Attorneys: Don’t be a Luddite Lawyer
Are you a Luddite lawyer? Does the term, “social media,” cause you to have panic attacks about privacy and confidentiality? Or do you have a list of excuses for why you don’t care for social media? Attorneys went to law school for a reason, right? Regardless of the reason, attorneys need to understand how social media works, not only to competently represent their clients, but also to benefit their practice. This guide will walk you through some of the top concerns attorneys have about social media, and provide you with a framework of what you need to know about social media, what to avoid, and how social media can help your law practice.

Concerns Attorneys Have About Social Media
1. Social Media is not relevant to my practice. 2. I don’t even know what I should be aware of. 3. I don’t know where to begin. 4. There are so many choices out there. What do I need to think about for each one? 5. With all the other demands that come with my law. practice, I just don’t have time for Social Media. 6. I’m worried I’ll make a mistake. 7. What ethical considerations do I need to be aware of ? 8. Any other considerations?

1. Social media is not relevant to my practice.
A. Competent Representation Have you ever received a call or letter from opposing counsel, “kindly” advising you that they discovered an incriminating photo on your personal injury client’s Facebook page that shows your client performing ski jumps at a time when they were allegedly injured and unable to work? Not a fun conversation, at least from your standpoint. Opposing counsel can hardly contain their glee as they suggest that you agree to settle for waiver of costs, while you remain verbally nonchalant and hope that counsel did not just hear you smack your head on your desk. Social media is changing the law. Opposing counsel are not above trolling through your client’s social medial accounts to find anything to use against them. This scenario is not just limited to personal injury. Family law, workers’ compensation, employment law, trademark infringement, and defamation are also areas where social media often plays a factor. Attorneys should not only be aware of client’s accounts; opposing counsel may also look at connected accounts.

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Social media is even creeping into the world of securities and corporate law, with the SEC now allowing corporate disclosures via Twitter and other social outlets. Obviously, as an advocate, your job is to counsel your client on the best legal strategies for their case. Some of this advice will be of the “don’t lose your case by acting like an idiot, in the real world or online” variety. Lawyers are also often tasked with investigating the other side, such as when a skip trace is performed to locate assets. What if the most valuable evidence you could possibly locate lies in social media? Are you doing your client a disservice by not understanding the intricacies of tweeting, the snapshot streams of Instagram, or the persons pining to pin posts on Pinterest? The beauty and danger of social media is that users are uninhibited about over-sharing. Instagram now, get arrested for identity theft later, right? The ABA has weighed in on this issue. In 2012, the ABA amended Model Rule 1.1, Comment 8 on Maintaining Competence so that it reads: “To maintain the requisite knowledge and skill, a lawyer should keep abreast of changes in the law and its practice, including the benefits and risks associated with relevant technology, engage in continuing study and education and comply with all continuing legal education requirements to which the lawyer is subject.” More and more courts are allowing discovery into social media accounts, regardless of whether the accounts are public or private, so it is becoming increasingly imperative that attorneys not only understand how social media works, but also how to conduct their own research on the various sites. Understanding social media is clearly critical to competently represent clients. Additionally, social media has marketing benefits for attorneys too.

B. Marketing Benefits for Attorneys Social media can benefit your practice in several ways. Social media is a unique medium which can allow you to interact with others, set yourself apart in your field of practice, and may increase your overall online visibility. As is discussed in more detail below, activity on social media sites, may make it easier for potential clients to find you.

Will clients choose you solely based on clever tweets? Probably not. But, blogs, tweeting, and other forms of online interaction can lead directly to client inquiries, particularly if you post on a topic that resonates with a potential client. For example, look up DUI defense lawyers in your city on Google. Unless you live in Wasilla, Alaska, there are probably at least a few dozen lawyers, each with their own webpage. Each has experience, most appear mildly non-sleazy, and none really set themselves apart, at least with their online presence. A great blog can do exactly that. Clients can read your ramblings on Type I Diabetes as a defense to a failed Breathalyzer test. They can read about Supreme Court decisions on forced blood draws. Getting the picture yet? Even if they don’t understand half of what you’re writing, you at least give the impression of knowing what you’re talking about. And while you won’t get CLE credits for writing a blog, you will, however, learn more about your practice areas and stay up to date with relevant cases. By setting aside even a single hour each week to prepare and author a post, you’ll guarantee that you learn something new every week. Whether your blog posts are based on novel arguments, noteworthy cases, or appellate opinions, you’ll quickly become an expert in your field by keeping up with the latest legal developments. Writing posts can also bring about change in your field of practice. Though most bloggers are best compared to

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someone yelling in a forest, using your newly found expertise in your chosen practice area to argue for change can be therapeutic. And who knows? Maybe you’ll change the mind of the person who will eventually make things right. If not, there’s at least something to be said for catharsis. Another place where these services can truly help is with professional development. Become a voice in the legal community and people will turn to you for advice and assistance. If you have a unique practice area, make that known to others. Social networking is networking without the booze, dress shoes, and social awkwardness.

Now, we’re going to assume that you aren’t an advanced search engine analytics geek. There is an easier way to pick a picture besides analyzing click-through rates. Meet MyBestFace, a free product courtesy of OkCupid!, an online dating service. They created the service to help your online mating game, but it’s (a) free and (b) tells you which picture is the prettiest. The concept is simple. Upload a few variations. Then, you have to vote on others’ pictures in order to “earn” your report. The report will tell you which of your pictures scored the highest. Obviously, this isn’t exactly scientific. In fact, the margin of error seems to be higher than the standard deviation between scores ran across multiple tests, but if you don’t want to dig through SEO analytics, this is your best bet, besides asking your paralegals, “Does this photo make me look fat?” A few pictures, twenty minutes or so of judging others’ faces, and you have your new online avatar for all of your social media and website needs. 2. Write a Good Lawyer Bio Second step, write a good lawyer bio. Here are five tips to get you started.
a. Pedigree. Prospective clients want to know where you went to law school. Lawyerist recommends listing the law school you graduated from, as well as your graduation year. Clients don’t care as much about clerkships, but they love buzzwords. If you clerked for your state’s Supreme Court -- or the U.S. Supreme Court -- include that information in your biography. b. Practice Areas. Your practice area(s) should be in the first line of your biography. Someone looking for a divorce attorney doesn’t want to read three paragraphs about your dedication to the pursuit of justice before finding out that you do trusts and estates.

2. I don’t even know what I should be aware of.
The most common services that will be useful for an attorney are: a website, blog, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and Google+. But don’t panic just yet Luddite, we will get to each one and walk you through it.

3. I don’t know where to begin.
A. Basics 1. Get a Proper Headshot First step, get a proper headshot. And before you think “such vanity!” note that your headshot actually can make a difference in search engine referrals to your page, especially if you have Google Authorship enabled (which your resident tech geek really should). Still not convinced? Here is some hard and humorous data from an SEO expert on how variations on his Google+ profile photo helped his traffic numbers. So, what does your picture need? Obviously, professional attire is a great start. Then, if you know a great Photoshop wizard, have them try a few things with the background. Even without Photoshop, you’ll want a few variations to try.

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c.

Make it Personal. Tell a story. Create a connection. You could list your legal victories as a series of bullet points, but Lawyerist advises that you’re better off with a short paragraph with a touch of personal.

in Cityville.” Done. You just got a referral based on your social circle. But let’s take the hypothetical a step further. Perhaps you haven’t seen Danielle since your high school reunion. She thinks that you’re an attorney practicing in Cityville, but she was a little tipsy during that what-have-you-beendoing-for-the-last-however-many-years conversation. If you include your occupation and city on your Facebook page, Danielle can confirm that you are an attorney in Cityville and connect you with Tom. Without those two pieces of information, you might not receive that referral.

d. Skip the Jargon. In law school, you learned how to write like an attorney. Can you please forget that now? For goodness sake, leave the jargon out of your bio. Cut the résumé lingo, too. How many times do you have to read the phrase “results-driven challenge seeker” before you bang your head against your desk? Résumé lingo doesn’t fool anyone. e. Avoid Passive Voice. It’s okay to admit that you forgot the difference between active and passive voice. It’s not okay to let your ignorance of good grammar interfere with a good attorney bio. Passive voice: The case was won by me. Active voice: I won the case. (If you need a more extensive refresher, check out Grammar Girl’s explanation.) Some people think that passive voice sounds more formal. In reality, it’s bad writing and it’s hard to read.

3. Include Two Pieces of Critical Information in Your Social Media Profile According to a 2012 Nielsen study, people trust their friends above all other forms of advertising, The Atlantic Wire reports. If you are trying to grow a law practice, you should make it easy for your friends to recommend you as an attorney by including your occupation and location in your social media profile. Let’s break this down with a hypothetical. Tom needs a lawyer, and posts a status update on Facebook asking his friends if they can recommend someone in his town, Cityville. Your friend, Danielle, sees Tom’s question, and remembers that you practice law in Cityville. Danielle can easily message Tom -- or introduce the two of you online -- to say, “My friend is an attorney who practices

B. Strategy Now that you have some of the basic information taken care of, it’s time to go to the next level. Here are five steps toward launching an effective social media business strategy for your law firm: 1. Decide what you want. For most solos and small firms, the goal is just to bring in new clients. But your goals may also include expanding your client base in a certain practice area, targeting an under-

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served market, or branching out into new geographic areas. You won’t know if you’ve succeeded unless you know what you’re aiming for. 2. Choose your audience. Once you know what you’re hoping to get from social media, consider what kind of audience will help you reach those goals. This typically means either prospective clients with certain needs, or people who live in a certain region. Once you’ve selected your target demographic, you can then decide on how best to reach this group. 3. Create targeted messages. You know your audience, so make sure you target your messages to them. For example, if you think potential clients would want to know more about particular laws or defenses, you may want to link them to useful legal information or blog posts on your website. Whatever you choose to do, make sure you keep your audience in mind when creating targeted messages. 4. Share on social media. Publicize what you’re doing on various social media platforms. Tweet it out, post it on Facebook, and publicize it on your firm’s LinkedIn page. Sharing the information on multiple platforms means you can reach more potential clients. (This is where FindLaw’s Social Media Solutions comes in handy, by offering a way to manage all your social media accounts from one simple-to-use platform.) 5. Interact. It may take a few months to build the audience you’re hoping for, but once you have them, take some time to interact with your followers. Encourage comments and respond when you get direct messages, as long as you stay within ethical guidelines, of course. Making a personal connection online can be just as powerful as meeting a potential client in person. Remember that if you are looking to gain new clients and

expose a broader audience to your expertise, then posting informative content devoid of legalese is the way to go. But how do you do it? Start by looking at the main topics in your chosen practice area and begin posting around those topics with the goal of creating information that is helpful and your followers will want to share with others. Crafting consumer-friendly content is easier than you think and creativity on social networks is always rewarded. For example, for blogs just talk about an aspect of the law in plain English. For Facebook, you can craft status updates around the general definitions in your practice area. For Twitter, take some time and find people looking for legal information in your area of expertise and answer their questions.

4. There are so many choices out there. What do I need to think about for each one?
A. Website The way most clients will find you is by searching on the Internet for a lawyer. Hopefully they’ll narrow their search by area of law and location, but even then, there are lots of competitors out there. Having a professional and informational website can be a great way to get clients, but it does not work if no one sees it. Getting a professional consultant to manage your website’s search engine optimization can be a valuable way to improve your online visibility. But you can also help yourself by stepping up your social media presence. Social media posts offer an another way to get more traffic and may also increase your overall online visibility. A quick post asking your followers a question or linking to an article on your website may also increase traffic. With additional traffic to your website, you’ll hopefully also get some extra business. But even if your new audience doesn’t hire you right away, at least they are helping you increase your online visibility.

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B. Blogs There are many things to consider when managing your law firm’s blog, from tone and audience to post type and frequency. 1. Audience. Are you writing for other lawyers (to increase your reputation amongst the seven or eight lawyers in the world with enough time to read blogs), to attract clients (by demonstrating your vast knowledge in an accessible manner), or to rise higher in Google’s search results (harder than it sounds)?

5.

Frequency of Posting. That’s easy: as often as possible. If you can’t update your blog at least weekly, you either shouldn’t have one, or should hire an intern or clerk to do it for you. Sporadically updated blogs can appear abandoned, which hurts the visitor’s perception, as well as Google’s. Per SEOmoz, Google loves the “freshness factor.”

C. Facebook Many attorneys already use Facebook, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they all know how to maximize the benefit of Facebook for lawyers. That’s the idea behind a book from the American Bar Association’s Law Practice Management Section, entitled “Facebook in One Hour for Lawyers.” Even if you’re already a Facebook user, this book does an excellent job of showing ways of taking advantage of the social network that you may not have thought about before. Still not sure if it’s worth it? We’ve put together a list of our top five tips gleaned from the book: 1. Consider your audience. In some practice areas, your client base will include people who use Facebook. But if your clients are generally not tech-savvy or don’t embrace this social tool, then you may not find many clients on Facebook. That doesn’t mean you can’t use it to your advantage, but it is good to consider your audience when making a page. 2. Create a personal page. Many attorneys rush to set up a page for their office and that’s a good idea, but this book reminds readers that personal pages can be a powerful tool too. People are more likely to recommend attorneys they know and trust. That also means those people are more likely to come to you when a legal issue comes up. Connecting on Facebook gives you another way to show that you’re that kind of trustworthy person.

2. Tone. This ties heavily into your target audience, but also depends on your personality. Some lawyers carry themselves with a constant stoicism and professionalism, while others use their personality to ingratiate themselves with clients and fellow attorneys. Your blog should reflect your professional image. 3. Topic. There are many types of blog posts that you should become familiar with. There are the continuously-relevant posts on a legal topic, such as diabetes and diet triggering false positives on Breathalyzers, or there are news-based topics, such as questioning why George Zimmerman’s lawyer told that awful, awful joke. News-based topics can get you traffic now, but topical posts stay relevant over the long haul. 4. Writing and Formatting. The utmost consideration here is length. Short posts appear spammy. Long posts will put your readers into a legal coma before they reach the end of the page. Aim for somewhere between 300 and 1000 words, with longer posts being the exception. MTV Generation, folks: we have no attention span (maybe). Longer posts, of course, will be easier to read if you break them up with headings or use lists. We’ve found that our “Five Things” posts tend to be more popular than longer narratives.

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3. Encourage interaction. Connect with people online and encourage them to keep the relationship going. Post questions or surveys on your profile and upload pictures when you have them. Photos that aren’t law-related may seem like a strange fit, but they show that you are a real person. Just avoid the ones of you tossing back drinks at the bar or acting goofy at your best friend’s bachelor party. 4. Check the fine print. There’s a whole chapter on how to manage the privacy and security settings on Facebook, which highlights how important it is to read the fine print. Those policies change often and they can be hard to maneuver. Take the time to read them thoroughly so you know how your profile is used and shared. 5. Beware of ethical breaches. Facebook can seem like a small community if you carefully curate your friends list, but never forget that the Internet is a public space. Before you post anything, consider what kinds of legal advertising and interactions are permitted in your jurisdiction. Then make sure what you say online stays within the rules. D. Twitter Here are some tips on how Twitter can help build your legal business: 1. Choose an account name. Don’t be afraid to keep your personal and professional life separate on Twitter. While @LawyersAreCool may be clever and witty to your friends, you may want to select a name that is more serious for your professional account. Think of yourself as a legal brand and use your name as your Twitter handle. 2. Have a picture. When you create your account it’s important to upload a profile photo. Whether it’s a photo of yourself or something abstract, from a

lawyer marketing perspective it’s really important to have some imagery to represent you. Twitter accounts without photos uploaded immediately look like spam accounts. 3. Create a good bio. One of the first things prospective followers read on Twitter when deciding whether to follow you is your bio. You basically have 160 characters to convince Tweeters to follow your account. Make it clever, simple and to the point. 4. Find your voice. Who are you trying to engage with? Prospective clients? Other legal professionals? News media? Keep your audience in mind when crafting your tweets. Always stay relevant, always stay on point. 5. Keep it simple. Because of the 140 character limit on Twitter, you’re basically forced to keep your thoughts concise. #seewhatimean 6. Use hashtags. Hashtags are a great way to amplify your tweets and gain more followers with very little effort. Think of hashtags as the subject of your tweet -- once you put a # in front of that word, anyone who searches that hashtag will see your tweet. 7. Time your tweets. Tweeting regularly helps you build your audience. So what if you’re busy and running from meeting to meeting? Tools like Hootsuite help you schedule posts hours, even weeks in advance. Scheduling tweets is a great way to be consistent and efficient because you can draft a week’s worth of legal tweets in one sitting. Also schedule your tweets for “hot” hours -- usually in the morning or after lunch time. 8. Interact and engage. Replying to other Twitter users is a great way to interact and engage with your audience. If you are trying to gain more clients or put yourself out there as an expert then make sure to get back to people that write to you.

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Hashtags are a particularly important aspect of Twitter, although Facebook has also adopted the practice. Before you get too pound-sign happy though, keep in mind that it’s not as easy as it looks. Here are some basics rules about hash-tagging that you may want to know first: 1. Hashtags are an organizing tool. While many do like to use hashtags as a form of self-expression and not so much to have their viewers click on it, this shouldn’t be your firm’s goal when using hashtags. As a professional organization, your hashtags should mostly be un-ironic and meant to actually draw viewers from a conversation using the tag to your post. 2. Don’t go overboard. There is no hard and fast rule on how many hashtags to insert into your material -- but, use your best judgment. Obviously hone in on the more particular keywords that you yourself would be looking for. Don’t #get #crazy and #hashtag #everything, it is #quite #distruptive. Focus on what the crucial #topic actually is. Not only do too many hashtags clutter up your page, they are an eyesore and are incredibly unprofessional looking. 3. Avoid punctuation. Twitter and other sites actually cut off your hashtag if you add any punctuation (periods, commas, apostrophes, etc). While this may seem like a cause for concern for professionals looking to use hashtags, this just means that you should get creative. Focus on the proper phrases that don’t need punctuation that are still relevant and key.

5. Stay relevant and on-topic. While you should be looking at what’s trending in your field and using hashtags as a way of marketing and drawing attention to your content, it’s important to remember that there’s a fine line between fleshing out content and being completely irrelevant. E. LinkedIn LinkedIn is an increasingly popular social media tool for professionals like attorneys. As you may know, a LinkedIn page is essentially an online resume, and it makes connecting with work colleagues, former colleagues, clients, and anyone else really easy. How can LinkedIn help you and your legal practice? Here are three ways you can utilize the website for its maximum impact and potential: 1. Set up your profile to reflect your expertise. Your LinkedIn profile is relatively customizable. You can actually add different sections to your profile. These can help highlight what your skills and experiences are -- and what you’re an expert in. You can also use your profile to demonstrate your expertise in a given subject by including articles and other updates with regards to your practice area. 2. Get recommendations and connect with past clients. Many of your former clients may be on LinkedIn. They may even want to recommend you on your LinkedIn profile for the services you rendered. This is a good opportunity for you to showcase your skills. It’s also an opportunity for you to get a good -- and unbiased -- review. Potential clients may come across your profile and choose to contact you based on the glowing words written by your former clients. 3. Find out about events and join groups to make new connections. You can join groups that are suitable to your interests. You may be able to

4. Look for commonly searched or trending terms to hashtag. Hashtagging not only requires that you insert them into your own, original content, but it’s a two way street in that you may need to follow suit on certain terms that are already trending. Most sites have a section listing the trending topics of the moment -- if any are relevant to your firm’s content, pop them into your posts.

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network online and find new experts that can help out with your practice. You can also find out about relevant events on LinkedIn. The site will recommend events to you based on your industry, network, and location. You can also search through events. Attorneys on LinkedIn can reap the benefits of the social network. Maximizing the usage of the site can help your practice expand. However, with the connectivity of LinkedIn comes specific dangers for attorneys. Here are three things you should consider when incorporating LinkedIn into your legal marketing strategy: 1. Know that everything you write may go viral. When you publicize things on LinkedIn, like your work experience or general competence, you should assume that everyone in the world can read it. In addition, you should be aware that your information on LinkedIn is not necessarily available to only those who actively seek you out. Instead, when you make changes to your profile or post an article, the social media site will automatically notify all your connections of your updates. 2. Don’t expect a lot of privacy. LinkedIn has settings that allow members to see who has visited their profile and when. So if you use LinkedIn to vet potential clients, opposing parties, or anyone else, you should be aware that that person will likely know that you’ve been looking. 3. Realize the differences between LinkedIn and your resume. You should not confuse the two, nor should you simply post your resume on LinkedIn. With a physical resume, only the people you want to read it will read it -- so if you exaggerate or make yourself seem more important, only a potential employer or a targeted audience will see it. However, if you make these same exaggerations on LinkedIn, be aware that a former supervisor or a client will be able to see it.

F. Google+ Google+ operates differently than other social media sites, Instead of adding users to one generic “friends” list or “followers” list, you can actually sort different people into different “circles.” “Circles” can be made for people like clients, friends, followers and employees. Basically, if you can think of a category, you can create it on Google+. And the interesting thing about the circles is that you are able to share information with specific circles. Want your clients to know about a new case that can be beneficial to them? Share it to your “client” circle. And, Google+ has a “hangout” feature that lets you video chat with multiple people at once. If you haven’t already incorporated Google+ Hangouts into your practice, you should know that it is a videoconferencing tool similar to Skype. However, Google+ Hangouts offers many added benefits that can appeal to attorneys. For example: 1. Google+ Hangouts allows users to talk to up to 10 people at once, which can be great for lawyer teleconferences and client calls. 2. It has screenshare capabilities, so attorneys can show their screens to clients. 3. The greatest part? It’s all free. Google+ Hangouts can act as a great equalizer allowing small law firms to have the same capabilities as their larger competitors.

5. With all the other demands that come with my law practice, I just don’t have time for social media.
When it comes to managing a law firm’s social media schedule, prioritizing is key. From pokes and pins, to tweets and digs, managing your social media presence can feel daunting -- unless you have a solid checklist that outlines your social media activity.

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In an e-guide by Attorney at Work , author Gyi Tsakalakis thinks a schedule will give you a better feel for how much time to spend on social media. Here’s a (modified) checklist on how Tsakalakis thinks it best to prioritize your online activities: A. Daily 1. Be active. This might mean setting aside thirty minutes per day to check your social media accounts. Maintaining accounts is crucial; nothing looks worse than a graveyard for a social media account! 2. Check Google Alerts. Google Alerts can help you track your name, firm name and topics that are in your field of expertise. 3. Write an informative comment. Comment on an article or post that is pertinent to your field of law. Don’t make a shameless plug, let the insightful comment do the marketing for you. 4. Use a feed reader. A feed reader is an excellent way to stay on top of blogs, news and industry websites. Of those you skim, pick one to share with your social networks. B. Weekly 1. Write one detailed blog post or article. Write on a fresh topic in your field that isn’t overly saturated. Try to keep the word limit to 500 words and be sure to use subheadings. 2. Comment on fun posts. It’s important to connect with people you know in real life. Commenting on random, fun posts is a great way to show that you’re personable, breathe air and eat -- just like real people! You won’t be a faceless law firm when you comment on a friend’s breathtaking Big Sur beach photo.

3. Start a conversation thread. Rather than a standard blog post, an interactive, engaging and pithy way to connect with people you know in real life is to have a short conversation via social media. This goes without saying, but keep the conversation more open and engaging, and less snarky or argumentative. C. Monthly 1. Blast an email newsletter. Send out a newsletter that discusses hot topics, local events that are relevant to your field of law, pro bono opportunities, and insider tips and tricks. 2. Create and share one piece of non-text content. The non-text content can take the form of an e-book, SlideShare, deck, video, webinar or white paper. 3. Arrange a casual event. To meet people you’ve been interacting with online, have a small event like a happy hour. That may extend the handshake needed to pull the relationship from the 2-D world into 3-D. D. Yearly 1. Speak to an audience on a topic that involves your expertise. Publish the slides or video recording online. This can range anywhere from a YouTube production to a fancy TEDx talk. 2. Write a year-in-review post. Sum up the year for people both inside and outside of your firm. Highlight what you all have accomplished this year. It may drum up some new loyalty. 3. Reflect. Honing your social media habits will require practice, time and patience. Go back over your checklist and tweak it. Use what works, axe what doesn’t and always stay hungry and on the prowl for new social media tools.

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6. I’m worried I’ll make a mistake.
You’ve fired up the keyboard and are ready to begin blogging on your firm’s website. You’ve read all about the benefits of a blog, and weighed the vital considerations of audience, tone, topic, formatting, and frequency. You’re ready! Except wait. Wouldn’t it be nice to learn from others’ mistakes first? Here are five things you’ll want to avoid when becoming the Internet voice of your law firm:

more complicated, they might not want to dig through verbose, Latin-filled expositions. 4. No Promises, Only Disclaimers. This is a big one. In 2013, the Virginia Supreme Court got the attention of law bloggers everywhere, holding that attorney Horace Hunter’s practice of blogging about past closed-case clients was protected by the First Amendment, but that his blog should have had a “results not guaranteed” disclaimer. Though your state’s ethical rules may vary, it shouldn’t be very difficult to add a small disclaimer to the bottom of your page. 5. Double Check Everything. Who are the biggest jerks on the Internet? We’d guess lawyers that are frustrated by a lack of clients. You’ll write thousands of words about the law -- and your rivals will be analyzing every bit of it, searching, hoping, and praying for a mistake that they can call you out on. Even worse than legal trolls, however, are disenchanted clients. In the rare instance that your mistake misinforms someone, they’ll lose trust in your knowledge and abilities.

1. Burning Bridges. Perhaps you’re writing a post for other attorneys. Maybe it is a primer on how not to be a terrible, annoying opposing counsel. It is very easy to accidently air some dirty laundry on the Internet. Before writing online criticisms of a person in your local community, we’d recommend letting post sit for a day or two, just in case passion is overcoming reason. After all, you wouldn’t want your venting about a local judge’s idiotic rulings in a current case to influence future cases. 2. Client Confidentiality. When discussing cases online, such as when trumpeting a success, or discussing a novel legal issue, make sure not to include too much detail about the client. For example, if you are defending a pizza delivery driver’s DUI case, and want to discuss the impact of the charges on his ability to drive company vehicles, perhaps consider changing his position to a car salesman or a taxi cab driver. Even better, go beyond the case and write a topical post on how a DUI affects different types of licenses. Though it may be legal to discuss client cases in public forums, it probably won’t go over too well with those clients. 3. Speak English. We hate legalese. Judges hate legalese. Clients? You can be completely sure that they hate legalese. Approach your blog topic as if you were explaining the topic to a 10th grader. Even if your audience is capable of understanding something

7. What ethical considerations do I need to be aware of?
Attorneys should remember that professional responsibility rules apply with the same force to online behavior. Attorneys must stay within ethical guidelines when using social media, including maintaining privacy and client confidentiality, adhering to advertising and solicitation rules, and using cautionary language to avoid unintentionally forming attorneyclient relationships. In 2012, the ABA adopted clearer guidelines about what online behavior is acceptable and what might lead to an ethical dilemma.

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Social Media for Attorneys: Don’t be a Luddite Lawyer

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The changes cover issues of client generation that can come up with online marketing and deal with managing expectations. Changes to Rules 1.18 and 7.3 deal with communications between a lawyer and a potential client. It expands the definition of who is a potential client to include people solicited online either with live chat or in the absence of direct contact, such as through an online form. Appropriate disclosures are necessary to avoid inadvertently creating an attorneyclient relationship. Rules 7.1, 7.2, and 5.5, have also been changed to expand a lawyer’s duty of honesty. Attorneys now have a duty to the public, rather than just to prospective clients, when it comes to not misleading or misrepresenting facts. It is important to keep apprised of any developments in rules governing this quickly changing area of law.

8. Any other considerations?
For obvious reasons, keep your professional and personal accounts separate. While you may receive referrals from friends you are connected to your personal account, maintaining a division between the two will help ensure that you present yourself appropriately to clients, potential clients, and colleagues. Firms should also think about implementing a social media policy to ensure that professional responsibility obligations are maintained. And finally, have fun with it!

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Disclaimer: This summary is not intended to be exhaustive, as the commentary and case law on these issues are far reaching. You should conduct your own research or consult an attorney for advice regarding your specific individual situation. Additionally, cases and statutes in this area of law can change, so it is important to conduct updated research for your case. Disclaimer | Terms | Privacy

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