Tag Archives: Social Media

More Facebook tidbits around the country

Marty Dolan, principal at Dolan Law and his associate Karen Munoz represent victims of wrongful death and personal injury. His column “Law and Wellness,” appears in the Chicago Lawyer and her column appears regularly in the Law Bulletin. This week’s blog is written by Karen Munoz.

Apparently Louisiana enacted a law last year that denied convicted sex offenders access to social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter.  Not only were sex offenders banned but so were individuals convicted of indecent behavior with a juvenile, video voyeurism, computer-aided solicitation of minors and pornography involving juveniles. The law took effect last August and included an exception for use if allowed by court order. The ACLU on behalf of John Doe plaintiffs, immediately challenged the validity of the law. The argument was that the act barred sex offenders from browsing any website that allows users to create profiles about themselves or that has chat rooms, instant messaging and e-mail — sweeping in everything from news websites to job search sites.

A federal judge in the Middle District of Louisiana struck down the 6-month-old ban on First Amendment grounds.  The court stated the ban as enacted was an unreasonable restriction on constitutionally protected speech that could keep sex offenders, who were no longer under the jurisdiction of the department of corrections, off the Internet entirely. The court did leave open the possibility for passage of a ban more narrowly drafted stating” More focused restrictions that are narrowly tailored to address the specific conduct sought to be proscribed should be pursued.”

The state of Louisiana is planning to appeal, saying the court’s ruling sides with sexual predators.

This serves as a good example to other states that have begun or are intending to propose this same type of legislation. A challenge will likely be forthcoming on first amendment grounds and the act needs to be carefully drafted in order to pass constitutional muster.

I am certain we will be seeing a whole lot more legislation involving this in the coming months.

Spontaneous Exclamations: LinkedIn etiquette

Adam Katz is a senior associate at Harrison & Held, LLP.  He concentrates his practice on federal & state tax matters, commercial finance, mergers & acquisitions, entity structure and formation, and non-profit law.  Adam can be reached at (312) 753-6110 or akatz@harrisonheld.com.  Comments on all posts are welcome!

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It is generally accepted that Facebook is in the process of taking over the world.  But before a giant, fire-breathing, robotic Mark Zuckerberg battles Godzilla and becomes our planetary overlord, let’s take a moment to talk about LinkedIn etiquette.

In the interest of being brief for a blog post, we can break this down into three categories: (i) portrait; (ii) content; and (iii) interaction.  Follow these easy steps on your way to achieving LinkedIn mastery (or just a convenient tool and a nicer looking page).

1.         Portrait – “My nose isn’t big. I just happen to have a very small head.” – Jimmy Durante. Everybody wants to look good, especially if they are posting a photo for the entire world to see.  However, while you may add to the quality of your LinkedIn profile page with a professional portrait, your profile really doesn’t need a photo.  Why?  To a significant portion of LinkedIn’s users’ dismay, this isn’t Facebook. LinkedIn is meant for professional networking as opposed to being an electronic yearbook in which you publish all of your personal exploits in or sometimes out of a bathing suit for the entire world to see.  Therefore, what’s most important is your professional credentials, not your face.

So if you have a professional portrait use it— it’ll make your LinkedIn page a more customizable extension of your profile page on your workplace’s website.  However, if you’re stuck cropping the better looking pictures of yourself from your latest trip to Cabo, don’t waste your time.  Drop the anxiety about posting a picture of your nose looking too big from your “bad side” and just don’t upload a photo.  It’s not necessary.  Focus on the content.

2.         Content – (insert hyperbole here). Simple: LinkedIn is your online resume, but you get more than one piece of paper to write it on.  Use this to your advantage.  Take your resume, insert it on your profile, and then expand on the details without being too verbose.   Whether you use your profile to network, acquire clients, job hunt, or whatever else, it’s a bonus to be able to convey to people exactly what you do.

When you meet people in a professional setting, much of the time they will briefly research your background and your LinkedIn profile will undoubtedly come up in a basic search.  As a result, since this profile is supposed to be analogous to your resume, avoid the excessive exaggeration.  How are you going to explain it later when your potential client asks you about the $300 billion  deal you quarterbacked one year out of law school, or what Anthony Bourdain was like when you were his sous-chef  (actually, bus-boy at the restaurant next door)?  Keep it simple, keep it honest.

3.         Interaction – This isn’t Facebook. While Facebook is admittedly a good networking tool, LinkedIn is excellent for professional networking.  Not only is LinkedIn a convenient online Rolodex to keep track of your network, but it’s an outlet to acquire introductions to virtually anybody you’d like to meet, so long as you are within a few connections of them.  You want to meet someone at XYZ Inc.?  Go on LinkedIn and search for everyone at XYZ Inc..  You will find that your college roommate went to high school with him and played on the same varsity badminton team.  There’s your foot in the door.  Bring your badminton racquet.

And that’s all there is to it.  Use LinkedIn wisely and it can add major convenience and value to your practice.  Treat it like Facebook and you won’t be the only one posting a bikini picture while simultaneously attempting to convince other professionals that you’re qualified to handle their 300 billion dollar deal.  If posting that picture is your move though, fair enough.  At least your nose doesn’t look too big.

Uncertain Facebook fights

Marty Dolan, principal at Dolan Law and his associate Karen Munoz represent victims of wrongful death and personal injury. His column “Law and Wellness,” appears in the Chicago Lawyer and her column appears regularly in the Law Bulletin. This week’s blog is written by Karen Munoz.

I am quite confident the rise of lawsuits involving Facebook will grow exponentially in number as more and more individuals communicate through that forum.  It is hard not to predict that a wave of litigation will involve Facebook in some way or another. Every day about 500 million people log on to their account and communicate and connect with others.

One area that leaves the door wide open to Facebook-related litigation is the area of defamation. Most recently, a lawsuit was filed in Cook County Circuit Court involving allegations of defamation between two Chicago police officers. CPD officer Juan Morado filed suit against fellow CPD Lance Handzel for defamation based on the latter’s Facebook posts. Officer Handzel is alleged to have posted comments on the Facebook pages of Mayor Emmanuel and a WGN reporter.

Handzel allegedly claimed that Morado’s family were “known gang members” and they were “in the business of selling narcotics,” and additionally, that Morado had used his position – that of a 27-year veteran on the force – to meddle in drug and homicide investigations that Handzel was conducting, in which Morado’s son was allegedly implicated.

This is quite an extreme case but it is easy to imagine many people exploiting the medium to try to portray their opponents, rivals or friends with whom they’ve fallen out, in a bad light. It is, as yet, a nascent area of law but litigation is likely to increase in the coming years. This post will look at some of the legal issues in internet defamation cases.

First, it is worth noting that Facebook itself will never be liable for the content of its users. Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, introduced by the Internet Freedom and Family Empowerment Act. This makes sense as it can’t be expected to be held responsible for every potentially defamatory comment made by one of its users. So when will users be held liable?

To amount to defamation, a statement must be one that is expressly stated or implied to be factually accurate. According to Officer Morado’s claims as alleged, Officer Handzl posted plain statements to a news reporter and the Mayor of Chicago. It seems that the alleged statements were intended to be factual.

But identifying when a post is intended to be a factual statement is not always straightforward. Given the informal context in which many posts on Facebook are made, it is very possible for the ‘target’ of a post to consider it as a factual claim and be deeply hurt by it, and for other readers of the post to view it as a joke and not take it seriously. If the post takes the form of a regular ‘status update’, then other users’ comments on the status may shed some light on how the post was actually interpreted.

Further, it is also possible that a potentially defamatory post will be phrased or composed in such a way that only a select few will ‘get it’ and it might mean nothing to the vast majority of those who encounter it.

So the landscape of defamation law arising out of Facebook activity remains uncertain. As ever though, the lesson to learn from what has gone on so far is to err on the side of caution.

Socially Phobic? What would YOUR Agora say?

Debra Pickett is president of Page 2 Communications (www.page2comm.com).  A former newspaper columnist and television commentator, Pickett offers consulting and training to law firms and lawyers who deal with the media.  Reach her at deb@page2comm.com.

Six LCD screens dominate the reception area of mobile phone maker Nokia’s corporate headquarters in Finland.  They call it “Agora, after the Greek meeting place where people came together to discuss things and learn from each other,” according to Tom Libretto, VP consumer engagement for Nokia, quoted here.

The screens feature web and social media content produced by Nokia — and its customers, fans and critics.  It’s unfiltered and posted in (almost) real time so that employees from all around the company can see exactly what people are thinking and saying about their products — a great reminder of how their work translates into real world, real life experiences.

So, imagine, for a moment, that you have an Agora system.

OK, maybe your firm isn’t a brand with worldwide recognition.  And, yes, yes, OK, maybe your “lobby” would be a little cramped with six big screens, at least some of which would be, quite possibly blank.  But let’s just go with the idea for a minute.  Imagine.

And, since we’re in fantasy territory here anyway, let’s also imagine that your Agora system includes not just social media references, but real, live comments that come out of other people’s mouths.  What would be captured on those screens?  What would people be saying about your firm, your work, the services you provide?

Our immediate, reflexive answers to these questions are not always accurate.  Sure, you WANT to believe that people are buzzing away about that expensive magazine ad you bought.  And raving about what you were able to do for them in handling a difficult matter.

But the things people really pay attention to — and talk to their friends about, whether in real life or virtually — are often far more subtle.  The things worth mentioning, in fact, very frequently are the “little things” — the small details of daily interactions that make them just a tiny bit better than we might have expected them to be.  Non-irritating (or, dare to dream, interesting) music or programming while on hold.  A patient, helpful explanation of a complex transaction.  A smile.  A really good cup of coffee.  An assistant who goes out of his way for a client.  A personal greeting that doesn’t try too hard to sell anything.

Agora was intended as a marketing metric, but the thing that it ends up demonstrating is that the best marketing/promotion/PR/reputation-enhanacement/whatever-the-really-expensive-consultants-are-calling-it-these-days is Not Marketing.  It’s getting the small things right and treating people well.  And, of course, this has always been true, but the social media megaphone just amplifies it all the more.  Nobody tweets about the thing that precisely met expectations.  They’re either complaining or raving.

So, which is it?  What’s popping up on your Agora screens these days?  Do you like what you see?

Land of Linkin’ – Apps for Illinois Lawyers

Debra Pickett is President of Page 2 Communications (www.page2comm.com).  A former newspaper columnist and television commentator, Pickett offers consulting and training to law firms and lawyers who deal with the media.  Reach her at deb@page2comm.com.

Vicki Steiner, at UCLA’s Law Library, assembled a fantastic guide to Mobile Apps for Legal Research and News.

She includes a pretty comprehensive set of national resources, from the ABA Journal’s free app to the $54.99 iPhone, iPad and Android-friendly versions of Black’s Law Dictionary, which are well worth checking out.  (Android users will also want to explore DroidLaw, a free reference that has evolved significantly since Steiner listed it.  And downloaders on all platforms all well-advised to steer clear of LawBox, which Steiner describes as a free app, but which has recently dramatically changed its interface and moved all of its most useful, state-specific content behind a pay wall.)

For Illinois attorneys, there are a number of locally-based apps to use and explore, too.  Consider:

Illinois Statutes ($5.99) – iPhone listing of all 67 Chapters of Illinois Law, including the Illinois Vehicle Code, the Illinois Criminal Code and the Code of Civil Procedures.  Updates when the law changes.

Illinois Compiled Statutes ($29.99) – Same basic content as above, but with superfast searching and offline access (for those no Wifi, no 3G courthouses) and a more user-friendly set-up.

Illinois Pro Bono (FREE) – Created by Illinois Legal Aid, this easy-access directory lists volunteer and training opportunities across the state, organized by area of interest.  (Incidentally, the group has also created a Legal Aid app for non-lawyers.  It’s an easy-to-understand field guide for those dealing with divorce, child custody matters, small claims, evictions and foreclosures.)

Finally, for lobbyists, or, really, anyone interested in “how the sausage is made,” legally speaking, Cohen Research Group’s Illinois+ ($4.99, for iPhone) and IllinoisPro ($29.99 for Blackberry) are must-have tools.  These interactive lists of contact, staff and biographical information on Illinois legislators connect you quickly to the folks making decisions in Springfield.  Incidentally, their well-known guide to Capitol Hill is called Congress in Your Pocket.  I’m assuming they didn’t want to call this one “Illinois In Your Pocket” because the listings for state senators and representatives do not include PayPal links to make contributions to their campaigns.  Perhaps that’s coming in an update.

Have fun downloading and exploring this stuff and let me know what you think.  While I can’t promise you’ll love these new tools, I can assure you that it will be a more valuable use of your smartphone than, say, tweeting insults about opposing counsel.

Leveraging Your Reputation: Time for an e-mail review?

Tom Ciesielka is president of TC Public Relations (www.tcpr.net). Tom has about 25 years of marketing and public relations experience, working with individual lawyers and midsize law firms. He is also a former board member of the Legal Marketing Association in Chicago and has spoken at Chicago Bar Association CLE programs. Reach him at tc@tcpr.net.

Even though there are now a lot more ways to communicate other than e-mail, it is still frequently used, especially professionally. However, it seems that people are not paying as much attention to how their e-mails can help their reputation because the trend is to emphasize the importance of Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and other social media. If it’s been a while since you’ve thought about how your e-mail can be more effective, here are a few things to consider:

Enhance your signature. Your signature probably includes your name, firm, and contact information, in addition to a legal disclaimer or privacy notice. You can add one more line that could be a link to an article that you wrote or was featured in, or a link to something else that you want to share. You might have just written a book or have an upcoming speaking engagement. Remember to share whatever you’ve done or are going to do, and keep the language simple so that your recipient doesn’t feel like your signature is a commercial.

Lighten the graphics. I know people who take a lot of time to create beautiful e-mails that resemble a brochure more than a piece of electronic communication, but the problem is that your audience can view your e-mail on various kinds of monitors, browsers, and phones. Make sure that your e-mail is simple enough for people to view and open. Sometimes if there are too many graphics, your message can go to someone’s junk mail, or may simply not be legible. It can also take a while to load if it is too complex.

Give ways to share. If you’re sending an e-mail that you would like someone to pass along, such as a promotional e-mail about a seminar that you’re organizing, then include ways for the recipient to share it with other people. Also remember to write the e-mail so that anyone would be able to understand it, instead of making it too customized to just one person. People who forward emails to others often don’t delete your personal message to them, so keep such communication short, yet friendly.

And here’s an obvious tip: Proofread your e-mail to ensure it doesn’t have mistakes and can’t be misunderstood. I’m sure I’m not the only one who has had to smooth over misunderstandings after I hit the “send” button too quickly before realizing that I wasn’t clear, or had embarrassing errors.

Facebook timelining and your best employment interests

J. Nick Augustine, J.D., is the principal of Pro Serve Public Relations, a PR firm for law, finance and small business professionals. Nick is experienced in law, business, entertainment, public relations and his Secured Solo Practice™ agency model. Nick enjoys sharing career growth, strategy and experience with legal job seekers and attorneys in transition.

Facebook’s new timeline feature offers some nice benefits but raises alerts for attorneys in flux in their careers. You might have a great job today but we all know the economy is still in recovery and this is an election year. If you end up polishing your shoes and putting your best foot forward, make sure your timeline represents your best employment interests.

The new timeline feature allows us to scroll back in time to share and learn about the people in our social networks. I think that the glimpse into someone’s past is a humanizing experience. A general rule of thumb: If you have to explain it you should, and if you make vague statements, other people will assume meaning based on their own schema.

Allow me to make a few assumptions. One third of Facebook users build their timeline to create a permanent record and electronic scrapbook. A second third of Facebook users are sure that everything shared on others’ timelines was a published for them, personally. The last third of users appreciate the reasonable expectation of formality and privacy on Facebook timelines.

There are new cases being argued about Facebook privacy. In a recent article I read about the perils of divorcing and having your timeline reproduced in discovery. I imagine there are decision makers operating in business with a wide range of social media experience. I think Facebook users intend on sharing information with others freely and comfortably; LinkedIn users appear to be more cautious about what’s shared on their “professional” profile. Some people incorporate their Twitter and Facebook into LinkedIn and there is no bright line test or standard.

There isn’t a certification page or box to click and swear your Facebook comments are true and correct on information and belief, so on and so forth. Most intelligent and socially adept social media users know to take Facebook with a grain of salt where the author’s intent seems obvious. Business users share content and comments with sincere business intent, and are likely to be viewed as more reliable.

While the laws on Facebook and admissibility develop, so do the expectations of accuracy by potential employers. Follow a few guidelines and you should be in good shape: (1) don’t lie; (2) be consistent; (3) qualify and disclaim if it seems relevant; (4) assume a variety of opinion among your “friends” on politics and religion; and (5) review and clean up your timeline to prevent unpleasant explanation.

If Jurors Are On Facebook, Should You Be There, Too?

Debra Pickett is president of Page 2 Communications (www.page2comm.com).  A former newspaper columnist and television commentator, Pickett offers consulting and training to law firms and lawyers who deal with the media.  Reach her at deb@page2comm.com.

In December, the Sarasota, Fla., courtroom of Senior Circuit Judge Nancy Donnellan saw yet another smart-phone equipped juror run up against the usual rules and expectations of courtroom decorum.

According to the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, after the first day of proceedings in a personal-injury lawsuit from a traffic accident case, Donnellan instructed the jurors “with the normal warning not to discuss the case with anyone and not to use the Internet to find more information about the case.”

But one bored juror, surfing on his phone, decided to look up the people in the case on Facebook to see if he knew them.  He ended up sending a friend request to one of the defendants, who happened to be “an attractive young woman.”

After being admonished by the judge, he was dismissed from the jury.  Naturally, he quickly posted, “Score … I got dismissed!!” on his Facebook page.

The expectation that courtrooms – and legal proceedings generally – will somehow continue to exist in an Internet-free bubble is fading fast.  Reporters, jurors and interested members of the public routinely tweet, text and post at speeds far faster than a banging gavel.

What to do, then, with the traditional sense of propriety that has kept attorneys and other legal professionals largely off of social media sites?

It is possible – even desirable, at this point – to live a Facebook-free life without being labeled a hopeless Luddite.  The site’s growth – the addition of new users – has been slowing in the U.S. and some recent studies show it losing ground as a venue for communication and networking.  Other tools, though, such as LinkedIn and Twitter, are demonstrating surprising staying power.  Missing out on the opportunities they present for marketing, coalition-building and information-sharing would be a real loss.

It might take a while for courthouse rules to catch up with the ubiquity of social media and there are sure to be more tense exchanges like the one in Sarasota to come.  But, eventually, judges, jurors, the media and the public will find a way to balance the desire for information (and the electronic means to transmit it) with the need for confidentiality and impartiality, just as they have with the advent of television cameras and laptop computers.

Meanwhile, lawyers can make use of social media technology without running afoul of traditional expectations for confidentiality.  The Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct, Rule 3.6 [Trial Publicity] lays out specific guidelines for extrajudicial statements, noting exactly what information can be publicly shared without posing “a serious and imminent threat to the fairness of an adjudicative proceeding.”  Following this rule, attorneys are free to publish the claim being made in a matter, to share information already in a public record, to state that an investigation is in progress and/or to announce the scheduling or result of any step in litigation.

Attorneys can join social media and participate, ethically and effectively, in the robust public conversations it facilitates.

But they probably shouldn’t do it from their smart phones.  In court.

Leveraging Your Reputation: Two ways to be an expert online

Tom Ciesielka is president of TC Public Relations (www.tcpr.net). Tom has about 25 years of marketing and public relations experience, working with individual lawyers and midsize law firms. He is also a former board member of the Legal Marketing Association in Chicago and has spoken at Chicago Bar Association CLE programs. Reach him at tc@tcpr.net.

There are various ways to become an expert through speaking, media appearances, and writing. Here are other two ways that you can become an expert, which will enhance your reputation even more:

Use LinkedIn. Join a LinkedIn group in the area in which you specialize and get involved in discussions and answer group members’ questions. And here’s something that will make you really stand out: start a discussion where you offer some proprietary information to the members. For instance, if you’ve published an article about how a particular law will help your members in their profession, or you’ve published an analysis of legal trends, then share that with the group.

An even more effective way to connect with group members and to raise your LinkedIn profile is to make a Top 10 list of something that will help them. If the information that you’re offering is specific and beneficial, they will want it. After you’ve created your list, let the group know by starting a discussion thread, and tell them to email you if they want a copy.

I’ve seen it work effectively: Several months ago, someone posted a message in a group that I belong to, saying that she created a checklist for fundraising, and asked people to e-mail her to get it. So many people contacted her and made comments below her post, that she is one of the most influential people in the group, and her profile has been at the top of the page as a key influencer for several months.

Create Videos. Many people post videos on YouTube or Vimeo and gain a following if their content is helpful. Think of tips or insights that you think people need to hear. First look at other videos and see what people are searching for and watching, and come up with effective search terms and content that will make your video attractive. If you’re not sure about how to create quality videos, see my tips that I’ve shared here before.

Overall, think about how the information and experience that you have can help others, and find the best outlets to express your expertise so that people will see that you’re an attorney to whom they should turn.

Leveraging Your Reputation: Time for a Facebook check

Tom Ciesielka is President of TC Public Relations (www.tcpr.net). Tom has over 25 years of marketing and public relations experience, working with individual lawyers and midsize law firms. He is also a former board member of the Legal Marketing Association in Chicago and has spoken at Chicago Bar Association CLE programs. Reach him at tc@tcpr.net.

People have been using Facebook for a while, but there are always some people who forget to be careful about what they post and who they’re friends with, even if they’re experienced attorneys.

Recently, a partner at a law firm had a close call when a reporter got a photo from the attorney’s Facebook page, and ended up using it for publication. There was nothing controversial about the photo, but I’d say it was a close call because the attorney had no idea that the reporter had been digging around Facebook to find a photo, and what if it was embarrassing?

So this serves as a lesson: Even though you might post something that seems benign, you have to be careful because even the media can end up using a photo for their website or publication if you haven’t provided one, or if they’re not satisfied with what you’ve submitted. The photo could simply be unflattering or worse. Just check what you have, or don’t post any personal photos at all.

Think about your profile: Is there anything you don’t want anyone to see? Or have you friended people to whom you don’t want to expose your personal information or photos? And what about your status updates or comments you’ve made on other people’s pages?

If you want to see where your name appears on Facebook, in addition to a Google search, try Foupas, which is a Facebook search engine. If a fan page or someone’s personal page is public, your name will show up. Sometimes people tag us in photos and we’re not aware of it until we do a search.

Avoid a public relations disaster: check your photos, remove anything you don’t feel comfortable with, and make sure your privacy settings are locked down and that you actually know all your friends. You can also go a step further and delete your Facebook account, and then create a new one. However, if you delete your account, you’ll have to get a new username because your old one will be retired.

So be careful out there, and consider all aspects of your public image, whether it’s on Facebook or anywhere else on or offline.