Law Tips: Your Law Practice Online: Efficiently and Ethically, Part 2

The information provided in Law Tips should not be treated as legal advice. Individuals with legal issues should consult an attorney directly.

Welcome back to Law Tips.  I’m very pleased to continue our “Your Law Practice Online” series with Cynthia Sharp, The Sharper Lawyer.  If you missed last week’s website pointers, you can find them by paging down when you reach the end of this blog. For now, let’s hear what Cynthia has to offer as to your communication skills and her update on the status of social media in the law practice.

Are you communicating professionally?

Many attorneys shy away from Social Media, exclaiming “I don’t have time for Facebook. I didn’t talk to those people when I was in high school anyway.” or “I don’t understand the big deal about Twitter. Why do I need to know what my cousin’s son ate for breakfast? What’s a Tweet anyway?”

Those attorneys are missing a huge opportunity!!! The effectiveness of both client development and retention is dependent upon the mastery of solid networking and communication skills – online and otherwise.

While the use of social media introduces unique opportunities to the legal profession, it simultaneously opens the door to new, unexplored and most likely unexpected ethical issues. After all, ANY online post that an attorney makes may be a form of communication and/or advertising governed by the ethics rules in most jurisdictions.

Several instances of the misuse of social media by attorneys are described in John Schwartz’ article “Legal Battle: Online Attitude vs. Rules of the Bar“, N.Y Times, Sept. 12, 2009. Sean Conway, a Florida attorney received a reprimand and was fined by the Florida Bar after he stated in his blog that a particular judge was an “Evil, Unfair Witch”.

Attorney Steven Belcher – Hired as a “temp” by a law firm with respect to a wrongful death matter. Having been brought in early on, he took pictures of the obese corpse and emailed them to at least one friend with reportedly vulgar commentary. Had he not sent it through the law firm email, he might not have been caught. The law firm monitored employee’s emails and immediately turned him in. Sixty day suspension.

Social Media Use in the Legal Profession:

Each year the ABA Legal Technology Resource Center conducts a survey of ABA attorneys in private practice about the use of technology in their firms. According to survey results released in August of 2010, the percentage of attorneys who maintain a presence in an online community was reported as follows:

  • 15% 2008
  • 43% 2009
  • 56% 2010

That includes 127,500 general counsel. A search of LinkedIn reveals 12,086 law firms with a profile page, including most major U.S. firms. Potential clients use LinkedIn too. There are at least 200 million members on LinkedIn and every second, 2 new members join. 100% of the Fortune 500 companies have executives on LinkedIn. Twitter has entered the mainstream as well, with 500 million users and growing. According to the 2012 Corporate Counsel New Media Engagement Survey conducted by ALM Legal Intelligence, 55% of those responding say a law firm’s blog can influence hiring decisions.

Social media is not only a powerful marketing tool but is gaining widespread use as a litigation research tool for those who wish to leave no stone unturned. It also presents a strong and burgeoning practice building opportunity. Are you going to be among those growing numbers or are you going to continue to stick your head in the sand?

Thank you again to Cynthia Sharp for providing these social media insights. If you are looking for additional training in the challenges of online legal marketing, Cynthia Sharp’s CLE session introduces attendees to the basics of Web 2.0 with the objective of taking the mystery out of Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Blogging and more. For details on Cynthia Sharp’s Presentation:Click Here.

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About our Law Tips faculty contributor:
Cynthia Sharp, Esquire, The Sharper Lawyer
As a practicing attorney, Cynthia spent close to 30 years building a successful law film. At the pinnacle of her career, she sold her interest in the practice and founded The Sharper Lawyer, an accredited CLE Provider and Business Coaching entity. Through her courses, she shares business acumen, practice building tools and office management techniques that have withstood the test of time. Her upcoming book The Guide to Attaining Financial Security for Lawyers is scheduled to be published by the ABA Solo, Small Firm and General Practice Division in the Fall of 2013.

About our Law Tips blogger:
Nancy Hurley, Law Tips blogger, has long-standing connections with Indiana lawyers. She was formerly a member of the ISBA and IBF staffs for over 30 years. Nancy’s latest lifestyle venture is with ICLEF. We plan to utilize her exceptional writing and interviewing skills while exploring how her Indiana-lawyer background fits with ICLEF’s needs. When she isn’t ferreting out new topics for Law Tips, her work can be found in our Speaker Spotlight blogs, postings on the ICLEF Facebook page, Twittering and other places her legal experience lends itself.

We appreciate you reading Law Tips.  If you would like to receive this weekly blog through a feed, click on the RSS link at the top of this page. Also, look for blog updates on Facebook and Twitter.  Your comments are welcome as Nancy continues to sift through the treasure trove of knowledge of our expert faculty to share with you on Law Tips.

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