Law Tips -Your Law Practice Online: Efficiently and Ethically, Part 3

What’s your attitude about social media? Do you use its marketing tools effectively? Whether you are a social media guru or a newby, reviewing your practices could be of benefit in your legal career.

Thanks to Cynthia Sharp, The Sharper Lawyer, we’ve considered over the past two weeks several relevant issues concerning the efficiency and ethics of online law practice marketing. So far in our series on “Your Practice Online” she has offered food-for-thought on websites, as well as a jump start on the ethics concerning social media. Let’s move further inside her advice on how you might use these opportunities.

Last week Cynthia offered this conclusion: “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?”

Do You Market Online?
Times are tough out there. Associates are being laid off right and left. Law firms are collapsing. In some corners, business continues to dry up. Bringing in (and maintaining) clients is not just a matter of success, it’s a matter of survival. More than ever, all businesses (which includes the legal industry) must pick up the pace and figure out creative ways to attract additional matters. A strong marketing program that is faithfully followed will undoubtedly increase a law firm’s revenue – even for those with a modest initial budget. Many attorneys don’t market because they believe it to be unnecessary, unprofessional or too time consuming. Maybe they just don’t know where to begin or mistakenly believe that they cannot afford to undertake a marketing initiative. In order to develop a wide (and always growing) network of contacts, get out of the office and go online!

You need to meet or connect with people. Deciding not to attend a networking function could result in lost opportunity. Likewise, failure to establish a social networking presence will have the same result. Think of all of the people you have met in the past through various connections or at parties, classes or through employment. The day before you met them, you probably didn’t know you were going to meet them.

The same holds true for today. You have no idea as to what opportunities ·will be presented that could literally change the course of your life. You may meet your next employer, employee, mentor, client, referral source or love interest. Approaching attendance at a networking function with that attitude changes the whole game. The same holds true for participation in social media. Since awareness of and strict adherence to the attorney ethics rules is crucial, a review of those rules and advisory opinions is a good place to start.

Recognition of Social Media as Legitimate Source
Various Manuals of Style recognize that social media sites are legitimate sources from which to cite: The Preface to the Nineteenth Edition of The Bluebook: A Uniform System of Citation acknowledges the enhanced array of available resources courtesy of the Internet (see link below):

“Rule 18 has changed considerably, primarily to allow increased citation to Internet sources.

Specific changes include:
Rule 18.2.l(a) now provides guidance allowing citation to authenticated and official Internet sources as well as exact digital scans of print sources as if they were the original print source. These changes in Rule 18 allowing citation to official, authenticated, or exact Internet copies of cited materials are also reflected in Rules 10, 12, 15, 16, and 17. Guidance for citation to webpage titles of main pages and subheadings has been expanded in rule 18.2.2(b).

Rule 18.2.2(a) now states that when no author of an Internet source is clearly announced, the author information should be omitted from the citation, unless there is a clear institutional owner of the domain.  Additionally, institutional authors of Internet sources should be abbreviated according to Rule 15.1(d).

Rule 18.2.2(c) now states that citations to Internet sources should be dated as they appear on the Internet site, using only dates that refer clearly to the material cited. When material is undated, the date of the author’s last visit to the website should be placed in a parenthetical after the URL.  Rule 18.2.2(c) now also states that for blogs and other frequently updated websites, citations should include timestamps whenever possible.

Rule 18.2.2(h) still encourages the archiving of Internet sources, but does not require the citation  to indicate the location of an archival copy.

Rules 18.6 and 18.7 now allow for the use of timestamps in citations to audio and video recordings.

Rule 18.7.3 now provides citation guidance for pod casts and online recordings.

Professor James Grimmelmann provided vital advice and assistance in revising rule 18″.
(Retrieved from https://www.legalbluebook.com/Public/Introduction.aspx– last visited Jan. 16, 2012)

Chicago Manual of Style. “Chicago-Style Citation Quick Guide.” 16th Edition.
http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

C. Vodzak. “Direct Citations to Internet Sources: How to Cite to Blogs.” June 7, 2011.
http://vodzaklegal.com/blog/2011I06/direct-citations-to-internet-sources-how-to-cite-to-blogs/

Purdue Online Writing Lab. “Reference List: Electronic Sources (Web Publications).” Last edited January 15, 2012. http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/560/10/

I hope you gained a clearer vision of the possibilities for online marketing from Ms. Sharp’s advice. So, where does your law firm’s marketing go in the future?  Is it necessary to devote more effort to these technological challenges? Or are you already there?  How much is it all worth? Cynthia Sharp’s opinion is: “The message is clear: mastering substantive law is not enough. All lawyers must acquire technological skill in order to continue serving clients efficiently AND ethically.”

We appreciate the helpful and fresh technological insights that Ms. Sharp shared here on Law Tips in our “Your Law Practice Online: Efficiently and Ethically” series.

Learn more from Ms. Sharp in her CLE Seminar Ethics of Legal Marketing & Law Practice in a Social Media Environment available at an ICLEF Video Replay site near you.

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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.

ICLEF • Indiana Continuing Legal Education Forum, Indianapolis, IN

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