Benefits of Social Media in the Legal Profession

Social media is very useful for legal professionals as it is for others. It can help enhance personal image, boost visibility, great for networking,  sharing knowledge and practice tips, posting and applying for jobs and can helps firms get their names out there. Just a year ago LexisNexis reported that 76% of adult internet users in the U.S. utilized online resources when hiring an attorney.

Actively tweeting and posting on Facebook can help people become familiar with a firm or certain attorneys and help them to possibly retain clients. One of the attorneys who follows me on Twitter utilizes her account to post about various legal issues and legal resources.

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LinkedIn is a great resource for attorneys to find and post jobs. It also allows you to be part of a group where you can network, comment and discuss things on a topic of your choice. Below are the groups that I chose to partake in on my LinkedIn account.

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Networking is a huge part of LinkedIn and a lot of attorneys prefer LinkedIn over any other social media site. An attorney I used to work for has over 500 connections on LinkedIn.

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Some other ways that attorneys are utilizing social media you wouldn’t even think of. For instance, some attorneys are using Facebook profiles and tweets to select a jury and cater trial strategies. For example, during the famous Casey Anthony trial a consultant of her attorney analyzed over 40,000 people’s opinions from social media sites and blogs and used them to craft their defense strategy.

While it’s a matter of personal opinion some attorneys like to publicly post about their cases after they are over. Stuart Goldberg is known for posting updates on his cases like “FINDING at trial NOT GUILTY!!”  along side a picture of himself and his client.

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Social Media Challenges in the Legal Profession

Social media has creeped slowly but surely into the legal professional world. In 2012 the International Bar Association felt it necessary to release a 40 page document revealing their finding in a mass survey of legal professionals around the world about the knowledge, acceptance and opinions legal professionals had about the use of social media. Screen Shot 2013-12-08 at 8.37.14 PM

The majority of legal professionals feel that social media has presented a whole new bucket of challenges, many are concerned about maintaining the professionalism. Many companies feel their first step before even using social media should be to establish rules on how it will be used by those in the firm. The American Bar Association

Copyrights and Fair use- Companies need to make sure their employees understand how to properly redistribute someones online work,  they need to know how to properly use an excerpt and give attribution so they don’t lead to copyright violations.

Confidentiality is another huge concern that professionals have when it comes to the use of social media. Attorneys must be super cautious not to discuss any confidential matters via any social media platform as it could easily be hacked.  This could be extremely detrimental to a case and a firm reputation.  Steve Teppler, a co-chair of the ABA Discovery and Digital Evidence Committee talks about some of the social media concerns in an ABA journal article. He says a lot of attorneys use Dropbox to store information, which is dangerous since their terms of service say that if they receives a legal inquiry they can chose to release your information. Having confidential client information released could lead to serious problems.

Social media posts are commonly used as evidence. Posts on social media can display positive or negative character flaws of someone, prove or disprove where someone was at a certain time as well as show who other are affiliated with. People often don’t realize the great amount of information they give away without thinking on social media. In 2012, Joshua Meregildo of New York,  had his Facebook privacy settings set so only his “friends” could see what he put on his page. The Government was able to use a cooperating witness who was one his “friends” to obtain incriminating evidence against him and gain probable cause. While Joshua fought tried to fight the court in how the Government was able to obtain the information the judge held that “he had no justifiable expectation that his “friends” would keep his profile private.”

In this video an attorney discusses how social media can negatively impact a family law case.

Yet another concern for attorneys is the slippery slope of what constitutes practicing law. They must be careful of the type of questions they are answering online as not to establish an attorney-client relationship. This gets complicated when attorneys do blogs or Q&A’s online.

Defamation is defined as any intentional false communication, either written or spoken, that harms a persons reputation; decreases the respect, regard or confidence in which a person is held or induces disparaging, hostile or disagreeable feelings or opinions against a person. Cases are on the rise involving defamation and social media. A woman in Virginia was sued for $75,000 by her contractor after posting a negative review about his company on Yelp, that he argued was defamatory. Luckily for social media companies they protected by the Communications Decency Act of 1996, which doesn’t hold them liable for comments made by third parties.


The Future

As time goes on I believe that social media will continue to play a large part in everyones lives. I see social media becoming one of the main sources for professional networking. I think that more companies are going to make business pages and that the older generations are really going to start embracing all the social media options that are available. I feel that people are becoming more and more aware of the privacy concerns out there and they are going to really start be more cautious about how and what they post. Just over a week ago a school teacher posted a picture on Facebook to teach her students about what happens when you share things on the internet. The picture went viral and truly showed that when you share something online ANYONE can see it.

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Collaboration is awesome and essential for the internet. We are so lucky that a large majority of people and businesses will share some information for free. People are constantly posting free tools that are useful for a wide array of people like photoshop brushes, how to videos, tips and tricks for interviews, book summaries, etc. Citizen journalism is another awesome aspect of what the internet can deliver to us in real time. People who out there not he front lines of a protest or at a political rally can post, tweet and blog minute by minute exactly what is going on. While citizen journalism can deliver the new is real time is it always essential to check that what is being reported is the truth. The open access to the internet and various social media sites that can reach out to thousands of people in a click is helping to deliver news, products, services and more in the blink of an eye.


Ever Changing Perception About Social Media

Once I started really exploring into the various realms of social media I was really surprised at all that was out there. There are so many different options to use for social media that uniquely fit anyones personal or business situation. While there are positives and negatives to social media use,  I think that being a well informed user is what can help to protect you from the bad and help you utilize all the good.

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Becoming An Online Participant

Prior to this class I had not really spent to much time tweaking and personalizing my social media pages. Social media is an awesome tool for everyone to use these days. As a prospective law student I have chosen to make my person pages as professional as possible and to try and network with fellow legal professionals, law schools and legal companies.

I have updated my LinkedIn:

I made a page for myself on Facebook:

I have also made a Twitter page: