Category: Social Media

How One Keystroke Can Undo Your Deal — Confidentiality:

What does a teenager have in common with confidentiality?  Absolutely nothing.  Today’s youth live out their lives on social media without a thought of consequences from sharing every thought and action.  Following is a guest blog by Wayne, PA employment lawyer Robin Bond.  Read about how a college-age daughter’s Facebook post cost her father $80,000. These are your
employees and clients, folks.  Make sure they understand the meaning of the term “confidential.”

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When a company and an employee sign off on a deal or settlement agreement, “confidentiality” about the terms of that agreement is often a key condition for payment. That means “keeping quiet” — and keeping your social media fingers, and those of your children, off the keys!

In Gulliver Schools, Inc. v. Snay, Patrick Snay’s lawyers negotiated a settlement of his age discrimination and retaliation claims; however, confidentiality was a key term for payment of $80,000.  Snay told his college-age daughter that the case “was settled” and that he was “happy with the result.” Snay’s daughter did what many of her age would do: she immediately went to her Facebook page and posted the following message: “Mama and Papa Snay won their case against Gulliver. Gulliver is now officially paying for my vacation to Europe this summer. SUCK IT.”

Snay’s daughter — a Gulliver alum – had approximately 1200 Facebook friends, and many of these were current or former Gulliver students as well - the exact population Gulliver did not want to know about the settlement. The school withheld the payment to Snay and the Court sided with the school, on the basis that the daughter’s social media posting violated her father’s duty of confidentiality under the settlement agreement.

Custom Apps Created by Law Firms – Brilliant Marketing

A terrific next step in education-based marketing strategy is the law firm mobile device app, designed to address a specific client need.  Law Technology News recently reported on  apps designed by Latham & Watkins and O’Melveny & Myers, to inform users about anti-bribery and anti-corruption laws.

The Latham & Watkins iPhone and iPad app, which is called the AB&C  Laws Application, was launched on  July 18th.  It is free from Apple Inc.’s iTunes app store. The app serves as a reference tool informing users about anti-bribery and anti-corruption laws  in major jurisdictions around the world. In November, 2012,  O’Melveny & Myers released a similar app with a more narrow scope, which focuses exclusively on the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practice Act (FCPA).  The app can be downloaded free from  Apple Inc.’s iTunes app store. (search: “OMM FCPA”), and is designed for use on the iPhone® and iPad® devices. According to a firm spokesperson, the app has been downloaded 550 times since it  was launched.

More firms are jumping on board to develop apps.  Fox Rothschild launched its New Jersey Divorce app in June 2013, after taking six months to build it.

I completely agree with legal marketing guru Micah Buchdahl, owner of marketing company HTMLawyers, who is quoted saying, “there are more law firm apps on the market than people may realize. But that  doesn’t mean they are all effective. . . . The reality is that most of these apps that the law firms have developed have  very small usage and really it’s just about saying that you have one . . . If a firm does create an app, the best bet is to be practice-area specific . . . the apps have come down in price and can cost between $5,000 and $25,000 to  create, depending on the app’s sophistication.”

I didn’t say this was a cheap strategy.  I said it was a smart one.

Most firms don’t have the internal resources to develop an app.  Latham & Watkins and O’Melveny & Myers had the talent on staff.  I’m not sure whether Fox Rothschild did their own design work on the app, but suspect they did.  When West Virginia-based Spilman Thomas & Battle, which has an office in  Pittsburgh, decided to develop a human-resources-focused app, they turned to  Pittsburgh-based Quest Fore for assistance.  They launched their app, SuperVision in early July, 2013.

There is no doubt that we’re just scratching the surface of the development of law firm apps which are actually useful to clients, rather than being a glorified advertisement for the firm.  Right now this is a strategy which requires a significant investment of time and dollars.  Given increased demand by law firms,  I anticipate that tools will be developed which will make app development an affordable strategy for smaller firms.

 

Something to Brag About – Linked In

I just received a note of congratulations from LinkedIn letting me know I have one of the top 1% most viewed LinkedIn profiles for 2012.  Considering that they just announced passing the 200 million member milestone, I think that’s quite an achievement.  I attribute it to the relentless pursuit of creating and reposting content, which I hope is meaningful and helpful to attorneys and law firm administrators.  In this medium, content is King!  If it gets me an occasional visitor to my profile or web site, so much the better :-)

Teaching an 89 y.o. about Social Media

I’m amused when someone thinks they’re too old to learn to use a computer, social media, or whatever.  One is never too old to learn if willing.  The reality is that they don’t care to learn.  Ok, I get it.  We all have varying interests.  But there are some skills that should be required.  And in fact a lawyer is required to keep abreast of the proper usage of technology in the practice of law, both in service of clients, as well as in the efficient management of their practice.

My 89 y.o. mother was forced to stop working a few years ago when her health took a dip.  She is doing well now, but her retirement remained permanent.  However, her mind is sharp as a tack, and she continues to love to learn.  Her computer skills are decent, and she cruises the internet daily in search of knowledge, and the occasional game of bridge.  She wanted to know about social media, or, as she worded it, “whatever’s taking up so much of your time on that darn computer and phone!”

This past Saturday was lesson one.  We went to her favorite deli for early-bird dinner.  As soon as we sat down I pulled my iPad out of my pocketbook.  (Yes, my pocketbook is that large and heavy!)  I took a lovely smiling picture of her perusing the menu.  I showed her the picture so that she could be satisfied she looked young and vibrant.  A few pictures later and I was ready to post.

After we ordered dinner, I opened Facebook.  I have a personal page, and a business page for Freedman Consulting.  I took her to my personal page.  There she got to read what some of my friends and our family are up to.  She found it fascinating.  Then I created a short post which said “Saturday nite early-bird special at Ben & Irv’s fabulous Jewish deli makes my 89 y.o. Mom very happy.”  I added the picture of her smiling face to the post.  I allowed the locator to capture the location.  And I hit POST.  Mom was astounded by how easy what I did was, and how fast I did it.   At this point our soup arrived.

Before soup was done, we had 2 LIKES and 3 comments.  All of which I shared with Mom.  Two of the comments were from people who worked for me decades ago at the law firm I managed.  Mom worked there in accounts payable.  Another was from someone I went to junior high and high school with, who was just happy to hear I was lucky enough to still have my mother in my life.  (AGREED!)

The instantaneous nature of the communications astounded her.  “Wow, this is way better than email.  I don’t have to think about who to say anything to.  If they’re my friends and relatives, and we’re connected, I can just say what’s going on, and they’ll respond if they want.”  Yes, exactly.  She got it.

Then we want onto my business page.  I wrote, simply “Words of wisdom from my 89 y.o. mother:  at this age buying green bananas is a risk!”  It’s one of her favorite old-people jokes, and she says it every chance she gets.  She was greatly amused.

Within just seconds of hitting POST we picked up the first LIKE.  Again, mom was amazed.  Her quote is getting a fair bit of attention, which I share with her.  She is delighted with each additional LIKE.  So for her sake, I hope it goes viral.  (For her, viral would equate to about 12 people!)

This isn’t really very scary stuff, folks.  Setting up your social media presence takes some skill, mostly in the writing area.  It’s not and shouldn’t be legalese.  There are tons of people out there who you can hire to assist.  Some are expensive, some are not, and price is not necessarily an indicator of quality or skill.   So check references and check their work product.

It takes time for sure, because ultimately it’s all about content. Just having connections means nothing unless you have something to say, which is of value elsewhere. (In this case I’m only speaking in a business context. Personal pages serve an entirely different purpose.) But with the right tools (smartphone and tablet) you can keep the time under control.  I have increasingly translated down-time into productive social media time by using my Smartphone and tablet, and downloading the mobile components of each social media app.  That means that less and less time is taken away from work production. Yet I am creating a larger presence. And that’s a very good thing from both  earning and marketing perspectives.

Bottom line?  No matter what your age, these are tools you should understand.  And they’re not that difficult.  Really.  You might consider them a burden, a distraction, a continual noise droning on in the background.  And you would not be incorrect.  At least while you’re getting used to them.  But they are also incredibly important methods of communications, and sources of information which may be relevant to your clients’ matters.   Ignore them at your own risk.

 

Most Popular Tweet of 2012

The year isn’t over yet, but it’s unlikely anything will top this one. 

This photo, posted on Barack Obama’s Twitter account the moment the election result was called, was the most retweeted post of the year, having been reposted more than 800,000 times. It earned Twitter’s “Golden Tweet” for 2012
 
 
You can read more about the top Tweets and Hashtags of 2012 here.
 
If you still doubt the power of social media, and it’s pivotal role in changing the fundamental rules of communicating with clients and prospects, we should have a discussion. 

PA Lawyers Who Made the 6th Annual ABA Journal Blawg 100 List

Thousands of law-related blogs vie for attention from peers and prospects.  Only 100 make the coveted ABA  list each year.  Congratulations to those from PA.  To achieve this level of recognition  requires consistent effort and dedication.  The payoff is a decided elevation in name recognition.  Does it pay off in clients?  Let’s hear from those of you who’ve been nominated. 

How Appealing

howappealing.law.com

As Nicholas Wagoner from Circuit Splits points out, Howard Bashman not only continues to churn out links on this appellate news-watch blog but also points readers to high-quality reporting on the subject. Bashman, practicing out of Willow Grove, Pa., also sends readers directly to federal and state court opinions so they can brush up on the latest appellate news from original sources.

Litigation & Trial

litigationandtrial.com

It’s a close call, but this blog from Philadelphia plaintiffs-side tort lawyer Max Kennerly is more about civil litigation and being a trial lawyer than tort law per se. Lengthy posts dig deeper than the mainstream media into the cases of the day—usually tort cases. But other posts cover First Amendment topics, law practice topics and legal news of import in Pennsylvania.

 

Philly Law Blog

phillylawblog.wordpress.com

Simple Justice’s Scott Greenfield calls Jordan Rushie and Leo Mulvihill “two kid lawyers with moxie, a sense of humor and a serious focus on what it means to start out in the practice of law.” These relatively new lawyers joined forces early this year to blog and practice in their own small shop. In posts, they (mostly Rushie) log the unwritten rules they are gradually learning from experience and other practitioners about trial practice and finding clients.

 

Taxgirl

blogs.forbes.com/kellyphillipserb

You’ve got a few more months until taxes are due, but you can read Taxgirl year-round. Philadelphian Kelly Phillips Erb blogs about taxes for Forbes, and it’s not just a personal finance blog; she also reports on political wrangling over tax legislation and tax-related news from the media. If you want to know about the tax woes of Prince and Michael Vick, Taxgirl’s your girl.

 

Tort Talk

torttalk.com

Daniel E. Cummins, a frequent contributor to Pennsylvania Law Weekly, is an insurance defense attorney in Scranton, Pa. Tort Talk provides in-depth analysis of recent Pennsylvania tort cases and notes CLE events and national tort reform efforts.

 

You can view the list of all the nominated blogs here, and then click on the provided link to vote for ones  you like best.  Good luck to our PA bloggers.

More on Social Media and Privacy Legislation

While the connection of the phrase social media with the concept of privacy may seem to be an oxymoron, there are some fundamental constitutional principles which cement them together.   Think about free speech, freedom of association, and freedom from self-incrimination.

In my last post entitled “Keep Your Nose Out of Employee Posts”  I mentioned the passage of new legislation in California designed to protect employee privacy rights regarding their social media accounts.  In today’s ABA Law News Now article entitled “Site Unseen: Schools, Bosses Barred from Eyeing Students’, Workers’ Social Media,”  they discuss similar legislation in Delaware, Maryland and Illinois.  A comment posted to this discussion adds that The Canadian Supreme Court ruled recently that employers have no right to look at an employees internet history as it reveals too much about an individual”, and provides a link to an article about it. 

Mostly, the egregious conduct legislation is attempting to stop is the practice employed by schools and employers which compel employees and students to disclose their private passwords, thereby providing access to personal information which is not otherwise publicly available.  At some schools, students are even forced to install software which essentially logs everything they type.

Keep Your Nose Out of Employee Posts

Social Media is an evolving medium, as are the ethics and laws surrounding it.  Take a look at new legislation in California, the leader in freedoms and safeguards for employees, to see where things are headed.  Calif. Gov. Jerry Brown signed two privacy laws protecting employees and students from bosses and universities wanting to snoop on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media accounts, on September 27, 2012.

You can read the news article on CNet News.

Who Owns the Social Media Account?

We know that much of the world of social media is like the Wild West of yore.  Eventually laws were developed which tamed the west.  We’re waiting for lawsuits, current and future, to wind their way into and through the courts to tame this new frontier.  Until that happens, there’s no telling what complexities and conflicts will arise, and how it will resolve.  Beware, it’s a dangerous landscape without forethought.

My partner, Jennifer Ellis, is widely known for her expertise regarding social media use in the practice of law, social media marketing, and the intersection of technology and ethics for lawyers.  As a result, our firm does a considerable amount of consulting work related to all facets of social media.  We both monitor a great number of news sources to try to stay on top of this topic.  And we both blog and prevent seminars on this topic.

One source of information I read regularly is HR Hero.  They cover a myriad of human resource-related topics.  This is yet another business management area that remains fluid due to federal, state and sometimes local regulatory changes.  It’s important to stay on top of this in order to avoid liability.  A recent article entitled “Social Media Ownership: A Look at Three Cases” caught my attention because it reports on recent cases which touch both areas.

In Sasqua Group, Inc. v. Courtney, a 2010 New York district court case , the court decision makes it very difficult to protect client lists and other lists such as Facebook friends, as trade secrets.  Marketing professionals have long advised that the most valuable pieces of intellectual property a firm or company can develop are well-maintained marketing-related lists.  Clients.  Prospects.  Industry CEOs. All sorts of  lists.  But now that it’s so easy to develop sophisticated lists utilizing readily available tools and the internet, it’s hard to make a case that a list rises to the level of a protected trade secret.  At least according to this case.

In Eagle v. Morgan, pending in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, the court will rule on a wide number of issues related to ownership of a LinkedIn page and its connections.  Does the company own the page, or the individual who establishes it?  If the company sells and the individual doesn’t work for the new company, can the new owner take the page over and continue to use it?  Was that part of the sale?

In PhoneDog v. Kravitz, which is pending in the Northern District of California, the court will be wrestling with the concept of putting a price tag on Twitter followers.  A proposed $2.50 per, according to the plaintiff.  With 17,000 followers at issue, a hefty $340,000 in damages is at stake.  Certainly not chump change.

These issues are just the tip of the iceberg.  They are important considerations for both your firm, as well as for your clients.  Certainly the evolving case law will take time to clarify and tame this new frontier.  But in the meanwhile, neither you nor your clients can afford to ignore or avoid the most significant paradigm shift in communications in decades.  So it’s important that you ensure your firm has a well-written computer, internet and social media use policy in place at your firm.  The last thing you want is to wind up becoming the plaintiff or defendant in the next encountered conflict over who owns what.

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