Category Archives: Nick Augustine

Building a business resource network

Nick Augustine is a freelance writer, broadcaster, publicity and marketing strategist, and he teaches SEO and social media. Nick writes legal industry columns for Chicago Lawyer magazine regarding business and career development. Nick is an alumnus of Marquette University and The John Marshall Law School, where he is an active alumni board member. Connect via @NickAugustinePR, @APIFCharity and Nick Augustine PR.

What makes an attorney successful? Many noble lawyers define success by their impact on their clients. In business, growth and profit show success. Law practice is a service industry business and profit pays the bills. Lawyers with business backgrounds have an advantage in law practice if they know how to manage a business and make money. If you do not have the business background and want to learn additional skills to build your law practice, there are methods you can use to increase business skills sets. Building a business resource network is one way to learn from others.

The premise is simple. Invite a few strategic businesspeople to join your business resource network to exchange ideas and trouble-shoot challenges in service industry professions. Referrals can also arise from building trusted relationships with the members of your group. Some small groups meet on the phone and others get together in person. Establish a routine and meet frequently enough to “check in” but not so often it becomes a scheduling burden.

Invite people to your group who can offer diverse perspectives and experiences.

  1. Financial product dealers are valuable to any professional who wants to attract more clients. Many investment representatives knock on doors and call friends and neighbors to offer entry-level products such as life insurance. Of course, ethics rules address direct solicitation by attorneys; nevertheless, the experienced salesperson cannot teach a lawyer some new skills in speaking to groups and positioning to receive new business and referrals.
  2. Marketing professionals who can sell their value to a client, know how to identify the needs of a prospect, and can create a strategy to satisfy needs. Like the financial and insurance representatives, a marketing individual probably attends local chamber of commerce meetings and continuing industry education seminars highlighting new products and tools to develop and marketing campaigns. The competition is fierce in marketing, just like law, so a marketing consultant or provider can share insight with an attorney taking advantage of allowed marketing practices.
  3. Staffing and human resource consultants are helpful if you ever have questions about employment matters and managing staff. Using talent effectively and appreciating valuable skills sets takes time to learn, and a business resource network member who can answer questions will save everyone time and money.

Your network of business resource friends can include members of several other professions and industries. Developing a manageable network takes time and is worth the investment.

A treacherous legal hypo about online defamation

Nick Augustine is a freelance writer, broadcaster, publicity and marketing strategist, and he teaches SEO and social media. Nick writes legal industry columns for Chicago Lawyer magazine regarding business and career development. Nick is an alumnus of Marquette University and The John Marshall Law School, where he is an active alumni board member. Connect via @NickAugustinePR, @APIFCharity and Nick Augustine PR.

You should be concerned with the dark side of social media communication. Not only are Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn potentially troublesome, blogs and emails are ripe for nefarious use. Are we a culture who pushes the envelope? What happens when we go too far? Does Himmel apply? During a planning phone call for an upcoming MCLE on point, I learned about a blog slamming local judges and attorneys. The accusations I saw were astounding and incendiary. What does a member of the bar do when they are targeted online?

Smear campaigns are not a new phenomenon but the ease in of distribution is compelling. Armed with enough SEO skills to be dangerous, a “watchdog” blogger can cause real trouble when they share negative content in their social media channels. If the title is catchy and enough people “like” and “share” the post, readers might assume the author is credible and the statements in the blog are true. Social communities like Facebook are ripe for gossip and public criticism.

Awareness of the issues and potential fallout can damage victims professionally and financially. Imagine the following hypo: Carol a rogue client, upset with the outcome of litigation, publishes and promotes a negative article about Alan, an attorney, and the article is full of factual misstatements and condemnations. Bob the businessperson knows and likes Alan and refers Roger for a legal consultation. The next day Roger searches for Alan and on the first page of the search results, he sees Carol’s angry article. Roger decides not to call Alan and instead calls Bob to let him know Alan might have some problems. Bob calls Alan about the comments online and despite Alan’s efforts at refuting the Carol’s bogus complaints; Bob seems to shy away from Alan.

What would you do as the lawyer when Alan calls you to seek your advice about a defamation claim against Carol? Did Alan and Carol execute an attorney/client contract? Did that agreement address social media communications? What If Alan and Carol entered an agreement with a clause indemnifying Alan from Carol in the event she caused Alan’s damages?

Add some more facts to the hypo involving Alan, Bob, Carol, and Roger: Alan starts posting comments on Facebook and Twitter that Carol’s article is defamatory and full of lies. Linda, a newly admitted lawyer has a friend who works at the same firm as Alan, the friend, who dislikes Alan, shares a copy of Carol’s article, and Linda discovers the article containing allegations of professional misconduct. Fearing she is obligated to report under Himmel, Linda sends the article to the ARDC. Discuss!

Best lawyers use better interpersonal communication skills

Nick Augustine is a freelance writer, broadcaster, publicity and marketing strategist and he teaches SEO and social media. Nick writes legal industry columns for Chicago Lawyer magazine regarding business and career development. Nick is an alumnus of Marquette University and The John Marshall Law School, where he is an active alumni board member. @NickAugustinePR, @APIFCharity and Augustine Legal PR.

Last week, I was talking to a friend who is a judge in a local domestic relations court. My friend expressed concerns about young attorneys and their perceived ability to communicate. Communication is a key component of law practice. The judge complained that motions and pleadings are poorly written and young counsel seem hesitant to pick up the phone and negotiate with opposing counsel, and instead only communicate through e-mail and text. Years ago, Stephen Hawking started talking about the dangers of reliance on technology and the breakdown of interpersonal human interaction. If we only speak through screens and mobile devices, we miss key components of what makes us successful.

Successful communicators know that interpersonal communication is contextual. Communication is more than the exchange of messages. When, in person, we can see another’s reaction to what we say. How are they sitting? Are they engaged? What fires up your opponent? The environment in which we interact can also affect the quality of an exchange. Attorneys meeting in an office during business hours can produce a more targeted discussion where the parties walk away from a memorable event.

Why does it all need to be an event? It doesn’t. There seems little reason to meet face-to-face to schedule or manage housekeeping. When it comes to major decisions, however, the benefits of interpersonal meetings as events outweigh the efficiency savings of an e-mail or letter exchange.

Applied to law practice, using the domestic relations practitioners as examples, consider the importance of a real meeting of the minds among counsel when negotiating for a client. If you prepare and sit down with an opponent to discuss your client’s positions, you use all five senses. The more senses we engage, the better we will learn and commit to memory the various elements of the transaction. Look at communication like a transaction with multiple elements. The non-verbal contextual clues are elements, and when used like a poker player, these elements can be useful when you notice them.

Back to the concerned judge, I am not sure why the quality of writing suffers, but if I had to point a finger, the 140-character impact might be to blame. Do we lose meaning when we do not complete a sentence? Do abbreviations dilute meaning? My advice to the new classes of legal writers: Learn how to be concise but outline your points and offer quality evidence and authority in your writing where possible. Legal writing is mechanical and follows mathematic-like rules. When writing, show your math and write clearly, because, IMHO, the judge isn’t likely 2 LOL at UR OMG allegations and IDK replies.

Learn from your year in review

Nick Augustine is a freelance writer, broadcaster, publicity and marketing strategist and he teaches SEO and social media. Nick writes legal industry columns for Chicago Lawyer magazine regarding business and career development. Nick is an alumnus of Marquette University and The John Marshall Law School, where he is an active alumni board member. @NickAugustinePR, @APIFCharity and Augustine Legal PR.

We all enjoy a good year in review to measure our progress. If you are an attorney growing your career, pause and ask yourself a few questions: (1) Do I know more law and procedure than I did last year? (2) Do I know more people than I did last year? (3) Did I make a mistake from which I gained experience? (4) Am I happy to work in law?

If you answer all these questions and know that, only you stand in control of your future, be happy and celebrate closing out another year!

(1)    In any career, we gain experience one day at a time, one project and one case at a time. In law, clients often present facts and issues that make us want to stop and scratch our head. I know a few attorneys who seem to be magnets for the bizarre cases involving some dynamic clients and the cast of characters they bring to the litigation table. Stop and identify some of these experiences and wonder how and when your experiences could be relevant later on. You just never know when some otherwise benign experiences could be important when you least expect.

(2)    I hope you were diligent in attending as many networking events as possible. The most unlikely events and groups can yield incredible returns. Who did you meet this year? Are you keeping in touch with this person? Did you connect with this person in your social networks? Did you drop them a note about an upcoming event? I hope that you can report that you know more people this year than before and if you cultivate relationships, you will be open for new opportunities.

(3)    Mistakes are assets. When you make mistakes, you can learn from them and value the experience points. The people who do everything correctly (so they think) miss the opportunity to grow from failure. Critical thinkers know what can go wrong if they already experienced the negative sides of decisions. I think that all my failures and bad decisions are assets in my set of tools to give great service with the benefit of experience. Embrace your experience.

(4)    Why did you go to law school? If you are happy working in law and feel like you are making other people’s lives better through practice, then you should be glad. Face it, most people lack the education and experience to successfully navigate the legal system and serve clients with positive outcomes. Put the salary and benefits aside and focus on the clients who relied on you to their benefit. Be glad if you made a difference.

At the end of the day, life is a big mixed back of challenges and tricks. The more you know yourself, the better you can decide where you want to be and how you choose to live. Embrace your year in review!

Social media jitters

Nick Augustine is a freelance writer, broadcaster, publicity and marketing strategist, and he teaches SEO and social media. Nick writes legal industry columns for Chicago Lawyer magazine regarding business and career development. Nick is an alumnus of Marquette University and The John Marshall Law School, where he is an active alumni board member. @NickAugustinePR, @APIFCharity and Augustine Legal PR.

Attendees of the ISBA Midwinter Meeting discussed social networking and concerns of security and propriety. There are many judges and attorneys who elect not to join peer communities on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn. Rules of professional conduct for lawyers are slowly catching up to common customs and standards in our business and social communities. Below are three steps concerned social network users should take to increase online safety.

While some are social network averse, others embrace the opportunity to engage in relationships with their peers and public audience. My uncle was a judge and he was very social and quite active in the community. Attending an event in person versus on a social network is just not that different, except that online there can be a record of a social network exchange.

Are judges and lawyers not supposed to engage the public? Do we really suggest a judge is unable to be a neutral and detached magistrate in court and be friends with the lawyers outside of court? Judges have been friends with lawyers and lay people since the beginning of the industry. There is another side of the story, however, the safety of professionals who might be the unfortunate target of wrongdoers.

There are three steps high profile professionals can take to protect their privacy and safety.

1. Mobile phone settings. Most smart phones will prompt users to ask if they want to share their location to improve performance or user experience. When your phone settings are set to share location, metadata can appear in pictures you take, on some photo sharing sites. If you make a record of your whereabouts, it is easier for nefarious people to locate you. It is worth your time to review privacy settings

2. Facebook settings. If you take the time to learn or ask someone to teach you Facebook privacy settings you can feel more secure about participating in social networking, even if only with family and very close friends. I know several high profile professionals and celebrities who play it safe by taking advantage of setting security. You can also set your “about” page to appear as your default, instead of the traditional timeline. It is a good practice to review your settings once a quarter to make sure site settings are secure. The “Subscribed” option is also a smart option for friend requests you wish not to accept. If you participate in this option, you can limit who can subscribe and see your updates without hearing from them on your wall. Here is a link to more info.

3. LinkedIn etiquette. There should be no reason to fear presence on LinkedIn if you adopt a LinkedIn policy. Since the inception of the site lawyers have asked, “Is it inappropriate to be linked to my opposing counsel?” Consider drafting a short disclaimer, you can prominently place in your profile summary that indicates your policies for being LinkedIn and how you manage your page.

While safety concerns are reasonable and appropriate for high profile professionals and elected officials, following stated and followed policy and security measures can allow even the most cautious social network users to participate in their communities online.

If the pope can do it, how about you?

Nick Augustine is a freelance legal writer, broadcaster, publicity and business development strategist, and he teaches search engine optimization and social media. Nick writes legal industry columns for Chicago Lawyer magazine regarding business and career development. Nick is an alumnus of Marquette University and The John Marshall Law School, where he is an active alumni board member. @NickAugustinePR, @APIFCharity and Augustine Legal PR, Inc.

He’s Pope Benedict XVI and he is on Twitter @pontifex. I followed him around 7:30 a.m. on Monday and I was follower number 40,447. Only 24 hours later, the pope had 373,114 followers!

Likely, a more conservative figure than many of us, and he finds the value of Twitter. Why don’t more lawyers embrace Twitter? When working with finance clients, I learned how many finical industry professionals get their news and share tips first on Twitter.

Certainly, the Vatican considered a variety of factors influencing the decision to launch into social media. Social dialogue is very much taking place on Twitter. Many influential media industry professionals lecture on the different purpose Twitter takes from Facebook and they recognize the different types of people who use Twitter for business development versus serial Facebook posters.

Just like radio drive times, mobile and web traffic spikes during certain times of the day, from sun up to well past the late shows. Knowing how to use Twitter and Facebook effectively requires proper education and some digital marketing savvy.

I am sure Pope Benedict XVI will carefully construct his message every time he tweets. Important and weighted tweeters often spend more time on their tweets than on writing headlines! Why? Search engine optimization. Yes, SEO and social media work together quite well these days and the trend will continue.

In 2013, you will be hearing more and more about Google plus. Search engine results and Google Business page information will appear well for digital marketers and publicists who know exactly how to blend complementary social media site benefits.

Many of us fell off the Twitter page and some of us kept it up but automatically scheduled Facebook to post to Twitter and vice versa (an awful practice). Frequent, original, quality content now prevails over quantity. There are many additional rules of the game lawyers should follow if they want to spend their time and resources well.

If you do not know what to do with Twitter or why you should care, spend the time to consult with a professional who can help, either by managing your Twitter account for you, or better yet, give you the keys and teach you how to drive.

Attorneys in Transition: Avoid anchors and evil puppies

Nick Augustine is a freelance legal writer, broadcaster, publicity and business development strategist, and he teaches search engine optimization and social media. Nick writes legal industry columns for Chicago Lawyer magazine regarding business and career development. Nick is an alumnus of Marquette University and The John Marshall Law School, where he is an active alumni board member. @NickAugustinePR, @APIFCharity and Augustine Legal PR, Inc.

The legal industry is stressful enough without the added trauma of abusive people and their troubles. This week I came to terms with an anchor and learned these people are often wolves in sheep’s clothing.

Luckily, I have a therapist friend whose practice focuses on lawyers and professionals with anxiety and chaos in their lives. For me, this experience unearthed issues dating back to childhood.

I over compensated with the pursuit of perfection and success and learned to self-sabotage to avoid failure by way of forces I could not control. Life sure does not come with instructions and you do not always know when you are getting it wrong.

My advice might sound contrary, but for those of us in  “repair mode,” when you see abusive people and anchors, run away as fast as you can before they have a chance to bring you down.

When my friend at the ARDC helped me decide whether to cooperate in helping my anchor get help, she let me say no. If the anchor is bound to get their card pulled, they will do it on their own.

As professionals working to help others, we need to live and work in healthy and stable environments. When we try to save the scared puppy, and it keeps biting us, we need to wake up and get away from that evil puppy and accept we might not be able to help it.

I have everything to gain from getting as far away from evil puppies and anchors, as do you. Go forth in peace and sanity my Chicago lawyer friends.

Perception is reality and Big Bird could help you win too

Nick Augustine is a legal industry publicist at Augustine Legal PR and works with law firms to engage clients and develop business. Nick’s marketing, advertising and media team helps attorneys generate original content to share their knowledge, skills and abilities. Nick earned a communications and rhetorical studies degree from Marquette University and a law degree from The John Marshall Law School where he is an active alumni board member.

President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign employed a strong social media campaign to leverage social proof among voters. I believe that many of the voters, who re-elected an incumbent president with an arguably failing record, did so because their collective friends and families on Facebook liked and shared images and messages to which voters would respond favorably. Using Big Bird to tug at emotions made it easy to override arguments over more sophisticated issues and policy.

Trial lawyers should all take classes in psychology, marketing and social media to help win more cases and leverage perception to earn more clients and win in courts of public opinion as well as law.

The same thing happened when Rahm Emanuel ran for mayor of Chicago. With endorsements from Mr. Obama, Emanuel used a very similar looking and feeling social media campaign and won the election. Certainly social media is not the only factor in influencing votes, but when it comes to “groupthink” and young and otherwise less-experienced voters, Facebook and Twitter seem to help win elections.

A shrewd social media campaign does not necessarily ensure a win. The trial of Casey Anthony used the power of Facebook and Twitter, with great help from the media, to make Anthony look guilty as sin; yet she was acquitted. Had the jury instruction been to convict based on looking guilty, Anthony would have likely been sent up the river.

Few people read newspapers today and instead get their information from their friends and family on social media where any statement is fair game regardless of truth or inherent reliability. For attorneys using social media to promote their cases and rally support for legal theories or causes, the challenge remains: run a classy campaign and stick to the issues, or pull the “Big Bird” card.

Closing arguments are perfect examples of the use of emotion to justify results. Statements such as “the defendant could have been your son or daughter” are not far off from the proffered ousting of Big Bird and his friends on Sesame Street.

The marketing and advertising industries leverage emotion to persuade consumers to purchase products and the same happens today when we elect a candidate to office, persuade a jury to rule or promote a legal theory or event among the public. Understanding how people perceive information and make decisions is a key to better knowing how to win in the court of public opinion as well as in law.

Litigation PR: The Greenberg letter and its fallout – vote for Greenberg?

Nick Augustine is a legal industry publicist at Augustine Legal PR and he helps law firms and their staffs attract more clients and tell their stories. Nick’s marketing, advertising and media team helps attorneys generate frequent original content to share their knowledge, skills and abilities. Nick earned a communications and rhetorical studies degree from Marquette University and a law degree from The John Marshall Law School where he is an active Alumni Board member.

Steve Greenberg scored major name recognition this week. By now, the Greenberg letter is a topic of discussion among many Chicagoland lawyers and the public who followed the Drew Peterson case. Note that “Greenberg” appears in most of the news reports of the incident where the Peterson defense attorney chastised his co-counsel in a 15-page letter sent to every news outlet in town.

Consumer psychology should be a major component of any decision to go public with a statement.

What’s the real story? The story is that Greenberg is upset in his opinion of how his co-counsel/associate and he very much acted upon it. I scanned the letter and I just don’t think it does Greenberg well. I appreciate he must have been very upset with Joel Brodsky as he alleges Brodsky misspoke and put Greenberg in a bad light. We might see more developments in the event Mr. Brodsky passes on Greenberg’s “window to retract … [his] defamatory remarks,” (See Greenberg letter of Sept. 24, 2012, at the first sentence) and instead, sues him for defamation.

How do we react to news? Some attorneys who read the 15-page letter likely think that Greenberg is making a public record for later use. Others may think this looks like a client complaint to the Attorney Registration & Discipline Commission with a laundry list of every negative sentiment. Most of the public, however, seems to mistrust high-profile professionals and public figures. I bet most people in the general public will assume both lawyers are hotheads and ignore this news. The bigger fallout of this very public act takes place in private conversations among friends and colleagues who know these attorneys. 

What would have been a better recourse? As many professionals do not prefer to associate with others who publically wag the finger, a letter to a tighter and more private circulation might have been a good choice. What would you do if your professional reputation were tied to a high-profile case where you did not prevail?

What is Greenberg likely to gain? After the dust settles and depending on response, people are probably more likely to remember a lawyer named Greenberg.

Consumers of news tend to favor familiarity. If Greenberg is more of a household name, more people may recall his name and think, Hmm, that rings a bell – and not think any further. If Greenberg later runs for public office, people might vote for the name they remember, even if they mistakenly think he was the victor.

Attorneys in Transition: Responding to ARDC inquiry letters

Nick Augustine is the principal of Augustine Legal PR and he helps law firms and their staffs attract more clients and tell their stories about the legal industry. Nick’s marketing, advertising and media team helps attorneys share their knowledge, skills and abilities. Nick earned a communications and rhetorical studies degree from Marquette University and a law degree from The John Marshall Law School where he is an active Alumni Board member.

Do you see the Attorney Registration & Disciplinary Commission as a friend or foe? Law schools teach us the rules of professional responsibility and how to avoid running afoul of the rules. Experience teaches us that despite your best efforts, ARDC inquiry letters might cross your desk. The commission has commented that most of their inquiries regard criminal and family law attorneys. Learn some tips on helping the ARDC do their job as they must process all the complaints they receive.

I learned all about the ARDC in professional responsibility classes in law school. My professor focused on best practices to guard against ethics problems. What I don’t recall learning was how frequently complaints were made by angry clients and gamesman opponents.

The ARDC rules require activity on all complaints. When the commission sends an attorney an inquiry letter, there is a deadline to respond. When I interviewed ARDC Litigation Manager Melissa Smart on Law Talk Radio, she stressed the importance of communicating with the ARDC, whose staff is good about granting extensions of time to respond, when necessary. The worst thing you can do is ignore a letter from the ARDC.

Changing perceptions of the ARDC has been a commission trend as they continue offering Minimum Continuing Legal Education options and education on how to use social media ethically within the Rules of Professional Conduct. The telephone hotline is there for attorneys who want to ask an anonymous question if the need arises.

One tip to protect you is bill early and often. If your time records indicate the nature and purpose of all your work, then it may be easier to respond to a question about what occurred on a specific instance. Keeping good records should reduce anxiety about answering an ARDC letter.

Sometimes clients angry about their bill or opposing counsel who want to win at any cost will make ARDC complaints against an attorney as an offensive tactic. While I have never asked, I am sure the staff at the ARDC can sniff out the legitimate complaints and detect gamesmanship. Having said that, if someone complains that the attorney may be violating a rule, the commission is duty bound to follow up. There are attorneys who focus in ARDC litigation and if you receive a letter warranting professional advice, make the call. There are several helpful tips and resources on the ARDC website.