Sunday, November 29, 2009

As Lawyers and Law Firms on Facebook Explode, Facebook Legal Networking Groups Mushroom

If you don't believe "the hype" about the huge number of lawyers and law firms setting up profiles on the mega-popular social networking website Facebook, try a search on Facebook yourself (see above) using the terms "law firm" or "law office" or "attorney" and you can see this phenomenon for yourself.

The challenge moving forward for these law firms, is going beyond "establishing a presence" (i.e. merely setting up a profile and/or firm fan page) to "effectively" utilizing this new media technology (which has as many definitions as there are observers and consultants).

As Facebook continues to implement changes to various Facebook news feeds, the effective use of groups and fan pages as "media channels" to reach online networks is becoming increasingly important. Many lawyer Facebook users are not yet up to speed on the nuanced relationship between groups, business pages, and news feeds - but it can be simply stated as - folks who want content on a particular subject now get that content in their own news feeds via their group / business page membership.

Popular Legal Groups on Facebook

Facebook Lawyer Referral Group (1350+ Members)

Lawyer Referral Network (170+ Members)

Lawyer Referral Exchange (1380+ Members)

Legal Marketing Using Social Media (1110+ Members)

Because whether you have employees or a job, EVERYONE needs an employment law resource (760 Members)

The LinkedIn Lawyer (1890+ Members)

Online Legal Marketing (500+ Members)

The Rainmaker Institute (1100+ Members)

Digg Lawyers

Interested to learn more?

Facebook for Lawyers - Seminars on DVD

Friday, November 27, 2009

This Week's "Top Tweets" the Black Friday Edition

Twitter is a free and easy-to-use "micro-blogging" site that allows you to send and receive short updates from multiple users. David Barrett, The LinkedIn Lawyer is "Twittering" -- follow me here -- and keep up to date with news about Web 2.0 social media and the legal profession, with a particular focus on LinkedIn.

Here are the "Top Tweets" from the last week (partially as tracked with Tweetburner).
David A. Barrett's Recent Most Popular Twitter Messages

"Top Tweets"

Facebook Business Pages for Lawyers and Law Firms -

Legal Social Media This Week -

Lawyer Small Talk on Facebook is Published News -

Social Media Seminars for Lawyers on DVD -

Social Groups and the Attorney / Client Relationship -

RT @stephenfairley Social Media Marketing: Getting Long-Term Results

RT @stephenfairley Law Firm Marketing Suffers Without Proper Follow-up

Litigation Trade Secrets: Tips and Tricks of the Trade: Tip #2: "Litigation Databasing Made Simple and Affordable"

Find David Barrett on Twitter @barrettdavid

Legal Social Media This Week - Black Friday Episode

Monday, November 23, 2009

Social Groups and the Attorney / Client Relationship

Stephen Fairley and I were speaking about the great increase recently in lawyers and law firms who have established some kind of presence on Facebook. As the number of Facebook users has exploded (now Canada's favorite website) the number of lawyers and law firms with some kind of presence on Facebook has increased as well.

Many solos and small firms handle their own social media marketing campaigns, and lawyers and law firms have developed a variety of approaches on Facebook to include fan pages (aka "business pages"), personal profiles, or sponsorship of groups or causes as a marketing and business development activity. Some lawyers use a mix of these options, some firms utilize one or another.

Facebook is ever-evolving and I was recently asked about my opinion as to whether groups or business pages are "better" in some way when considering the recent Facebook interface updates.

Jan Henson Boswell Belcher
If you have a "group" page, should you convert these to business pages ?

David Barrett
I'm generally against efforts to get folks on social media to migrate anywhere (whether that be within or between social media platforms) because it is a lot of work and it never works, so why swim upstream. Groups seem to be treated differently now in terms of news feed (i.e. pages feed posts to the members but groups do not).

However there may be a particular advantage with forming a group of a particular population - some folks are just more likely to join a group of equals rather than become a "fan" of someone or something. Purely in terms of the technical Facebook functions of each, pages seem to be better if all else is equal.

As a speaker for Bar Associations and lawyer groups I'm often working to identify the legal ethics issues in social media (in our relentless pursuit for CLE credit), and in my view the important issue for lawyers when it comes to setting up a group is AVOID ANY INDICATION THAT GROUP MEMBERSHIP FORMS AN ATTORNEY / CLIENT RELATIONSHIP. As lawyers, we know that this kind of issue trumps other minor technical considerations like whether a group post comes up in the news feed of the group members.

In many examples lawyers could do more to make sure that it is clear that membership in their online social media group does not create an attorney / client relationship. Many lawyers failed to include any disclaimer on this issue in the group or page description. Many law firms use a firm logo or establish a group in the firm name, which may implicitly denote a relationship between the firm and the members of the group.

However in the example in the photo above, we have a group of 80 members all of whom identify themselves as members of "Joseph Rosetti is My Trial Lawyer" which is even more problematic than Facebook groups that merely use the law firm name or logo because it states there is an attorney client relationship.

Membership in this group is not even conditional - I just joined the group myself without any screening or establishment of a written document attorney / client relationship.

Picky picky picky LinkedIn Lawyer David ... so why is this a problem?

I can think of a few potential problems with this kind of group -

1. Likely a legal malpractice insurance carrier's nightmare

2. Possibly a violation of local bar lawyer rules

3. Group membership may need to be considered in client conflict database, thus limiting a lawyer's ability to represent other parties

4. In part it simply doesn't make sense after reading the firm and group descriptions

Is this kind of group cute? Sure. Should lawyers take legal ethics issues more seriously than they do when engaging in online advertising? Yes.

Many firms seem to set up groups in the firm name in order to "get their name out there" which is simple enough to understand. However, even dismissing the ethical issue identified above - who wants to join a group that does nothing but promote your law firm?

Successful online social media groups are somehow a resource for those members of the group by meeting their information or networking or other needs in some way. Smart social marketers figure out how to meet needs of the networking targets identified in the firm marketing plan when considering each practice area's competitive advantage.

Click here to learn more about how lawyers can effectively utilize Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Blogs.

LinkedIn for Lawyers

Facebook for Lawyers

Twitter for Lawyers

Blogging for Lawyers

Social Media Tool Kit for Lawyers

Lawyer Small Talk on Facebook is Published News

Yesterday's LA Family Court Examiner published a story called "What Lawyers Really Think of Judges, Pro Per Litigants, and Their Jobs" which basically republished Facebook communications made by a number of lawyers as they had idle time in the work day.

Whether one line of text about how the author got the printout of the Facebook communications is actually an article or whether this is an adequate practice of journalism may be interesting issues, but LAWYERS focus on the forest, not the trees (i.e. what you say on Facebook is potentially newsworthy media content for all kinds of publications).

In my seminars for lawyers and on speaking occasions about effective social media for lawyers, I frequently use the mantra ... think publishing ... think publishing ... think publishing ... but the truth is many lawyers either choose to use Facebook for personal rather than professional activities, or they improperly operate their account privacy settings or misjudge what might put them in a bad light.

However, as social media marketing becomes more popular with lawyers and law firms working to establish a robust presence online, the answer is not only as simple that now lawyers need to make their Facebook profiles private.

Used properly, social media can provide a significant marketing and business development benefit for lawyers and law firms. From a marketing perspective, public Facebook profiles or Facebook profiles and pages that maintain communities with large numbers of members are obviously preferred to private accounts that use Facebook like a communication tool such as email, chat or text.

Common sense is still the best advice - figure out which are your personal social media accounts and which are your public social media accounts, and have a plan for each. Of course everything we do online is online, so don't overestimate your online privacy in your personal accounts.

Interested to Learn More About Lawyer Use of the New Internet and Web 2.0 ???

Social Media Seminars for Lawyers on DVD -

Facebook Business Pages for Lawyers

Facebook Fan pages (aka "Business Pages") are one of the most successful ways lawyers and law firms can establish a presence on Facebook. Although Facebook has modified its Terms of Service to allow for "(non-)personal use" a law firm profile set up as a Facebook personal profile is awkward for a few reasons.

First, such use may be construed as a violation of the terms of service and without warning Facebook could shut down all of these accounts, and all the friends and work put into building such Facebook pages would be lost.

Second, the personal connection inherent in social media is lost. Is there a person behind that curtain? Does this law firm answer messages or Facebook chat? Who exactly are we speaking with?

Third, a Facebook strategy that utilizes personal profiles for attorneys, business pages for the law firm, as well as Facebook groups achieves a much more robust presence on Facebook. This arrangement also allows for attorneys to feed content to and from the law firm page, as appropriate for the particular personal or group network.

Here you may find an example of my Facebook "Fan Page" or "Business Page".

Interested to learn how to leverage the power of the new internet?

Legal Marketing Using Social Media

Seminars for Lawyers on DVD