What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. Unless it involves defamatory Facebook postings and a retaliatory lawsuit.
The new CBS show The Defenders has Jim Belushi and Jerry O’Connell dramatizing and glamorizing the life and work of Las Vegas attorneys. But for the real attorneys working in the tumbleweeds of Nevada, it can be a tough gig. Ask Jonathan Goldsmith, a “60% Bankruptcy / 10% Family Law / 10% Criminal Defense / 5% Personal Injury” of counsel at Rosenfeld & Rinato. (They don’t bother with associates there — you’re either of counsel or a founding partner, even if you’re just two years out of law school; Goldsmith is a 2009 University of Las Vegas law grad.)
Goldsmith was plaintiff’s counsel in a divorce case, and the husband being divorced, Jordan Cooper, took a disliking to him. Which he naturally expressed on Facebook…
* Reports of a hunter’s death may have been greatly exaggerated, but they don’t entitle him to a defamation award. [Courthouse News]
* “Thinking of a Career in Law? Hahaha!” (Or: the U.K. legal market sounds a whole lot like ours.) [Charon QC]
* Can a lawyer use publicly available information on Facebook in a pending case without friending the person? [Adjunct Law Prof Blog]
* Vanderbilt law professor and leading class-action scholar Richard Nagareda, R.I.P. [TortsProf Blog]
Almost two years ago, I joined Twitter to help find a publisher for a book I was writing. A couple weeks later, a friend I followed on Twitter asked, “Does anybody know a contracts lawyer?” I responded and won a new client. A lawyer winning business on Twitter was somewhat unusual at that time, but it isn’t anymore. In the 2010 ABA Technology Survey Report, 10% of respondents “had a client retain their legal services as a result of use of online communities/social networking.” While 10% may seem small, it represents a dramatic shift in law firm attitudes towards social media.
So how are the successful attorneys doing it? By personally maintaining a presence online: 56% of attorneys reported having a presence in 2010, up from just 43% in 2009 and 15% in 2008. (In 2008, the social networks mentioned in the survey were Facebook, Second Life and LawLink — so times have changed a bit.) Bottom line is, there has been a clear shift over the last three years. Take a look at the classic innovation curve:
For those unfamiliar with the Rogers Innovation Curve, think of the first group of innovators as those who stood in line for the first iPhone, and the second group of early adopters as those who did their research and jumped on for the second version of the iPhone. The early majority represents widespread acceptance of the technology, and the late majority is when people like my father (who just recently stopped dictating emails to his secretary) buy iPhones. The laggards are those who have not yet figured out how to turn on their computers.
Participating in social networks is no longer a fringe activity enjoyed by the innovators and early adopters; it is now enjoyed by the early majority and a piece of the late majority. Social networks have hit the mainstream for lawyers, and since lawyers tend to lag behind the rest of the population in acceptance of new technology, I suspect there is even greater penetration among businesses and key decision makers.
How are different groups of lawyers responding to the social networking revolution?
The internet is on fire today. The purported contract between Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and random New York resident Paul Ceglia has hit the worldwide web. We’ve written about Ceglia’s claims to 84% of Facebook before. But now that people have actually seen the document, everybody wants to talk about it.
As most lawyers know, just because you have a signed contract doesn’t necessarily mean you have anything. What was the bargain? Was there a meeting of the minds? Contracts aren’t always clear about what the parties are actually agreeing to.
This one, allegedly signed by Zuckerberg when he was a college sophomore, has lots of room for interpretation…
The meteoric rise of Facebook has tended to inspire lawsuits by those who claim to have collaborated with Mark Zuckerberg in the site’s creation. The latest to make a claim on the 500-million-member site is a wood chipper man in New York. We don’t understand how Paul D. Ceglia went from writing code to producing wood pellets, but so be it.
In his lawsuit (via Gawker), he claims to have made a contract with Zuckerberg in 2003 to help design “The Face Book” for $1,000 plus 50% of the site’s revenue, with an added 1% per day until the site was launched. This sounds like the stupidest (and most typo-ridden) contract ever — Zuckerberg went to Harvard and this guy chops wood, so we’re skeptical (though we do know the Ivy League doesn’t teach common sense).
The Guardian reports that Facebook has “dismissed the case as ‘frivolous’ and ‘outlandish’, said it will fight it vigorously and pointed out that a lawsuit over a contract broken in 2003 is ‘almost certainly barred’ by the statute of limitation.”
The judge in Allegheny County Supreme Court is taking the claim very seriously though. Judge Thomas Brown has frozen Facebook’s assets while the case is pending…
Upon graduation, some degrees grant graduates more than a few extra letters at the end of their name. Some degrees are transformative. An MD turns an anal, highlighter-happy med student into a “doctor.” A PhD does the same thing for disheveled grad students. A JD makes you an “esquire.” (Other degrees are not transformative: MBA and masters grads get nothing but debt.)
While the MDs and, to a lesser extent, PhDs get to be called Dr. on a regular basis, no one ever uses “Esquire” aloud. It’s a silent, written title, and that bothers some lawyers, who want an honorific that people actually use in conversation. Lawyers do have Juris Doctorates, after all.
If you’re among those who feel entitled to a more regularly used title, there’s a Facebook group for you:
The movement only has 113 fans as of this writing, but there is a history to this movement. In 2006, the ABA Journal looked into the matter, and determined that the ethics rules around calling yourself “Dr. Ima Lawyer, Esquire” are unclear…
It’s a Scarlet Letter tale for the digital age. A Georgetown law student’s life has completely unraveled. His way of dealing with losing his wife, his mistress, his supposed baby, his military assignment, and good standing at Georgetown Law School? A public confession on Facebook.
He posted the note with the details of his sad, sordid story on his Facebook wall this week. It begins:
For the world to know:
I was an awful husband. Instead of being honest with my wife about the real problems we faced, I chose to band-aide my pain by seeking comfort in the arms of another woman. The single worst moral failing of my entire life, that I will never atone for and never live down. There is no excuse for my behavior and I deserve every stone that any of you choose to throw.
Anyone who’s ever seen Fatal Attraction or any of the derivative films it has spawned knows that seeking comfort in the arms of another woman will only lead to very bad things. We’ve redacted the names of those involved; we’ll call this candid law student “BAD, BAD BULLDOG.” He decided to share in detail how his dalliance with BULLDOG TEMPTRESS sent his life into a tailspin.
One or more of his Facebook friends — so impressed by the public pillory — copied the note into an email and forwarded it on, thus inviting others to join in the stone-throwing. This has resulted in widespread distribution at the school, and the email’s landing in our inbox.
There are many lessons to be learned here. Two big ones: (1) Don’t cheat on your wife, and (2) If your mistress tells you she’s pregnant, make sure you see the test with the pink line with your own eyes…
You’ve got to love lawyers sometimes. If nothing else, they’re a resourceful group of people. If there is information out there that can help win a case, you can count on a lawyer to find it, massage it, and use it to their client’s advantage. What makes a good lawyer? Research, baby, research.
We’ve mentioned before that divorce attorneys have figured out how to use incriminating text messages to their advantage. So it should really come as no surprise that divorce attorneys are also using Facebook to dig up information on the soon-to-be-ex spouses of their clients.
If anything, the only surprising thing is how stupid people are on Facebook even when they are in the midst of active litigation. CNN had a nice story yesterday, documenting this trend:
Before the explosion of social media, Ken Altshuler, a divorce lawyer in Maine, dug up dirt on his client’s spouses the old-fashioned way: with private investigators and subpoenas. Now the first place his team checks for evidence is Facebook…
“Facebook is a great source of evidence,” Altshuler said. “It’s absolutely solid evidence because he’s the author of it. How do you deny that you put that on?”
What kind of idiots put something on Facebook they don’t want their spouse to see? Apparently, the cheating kind….
Earlier this year, in one of its many format changes, Facebook forced users to make their profile info more public via Community Pages. Facebook created pages based on users’ lists of interests, jobs, and favorite things to help people find others “who share similar interests and experiences.”
So if you, for example, listed “document review” as something you like, you’d be a member of this page. And maybe this page too.
One issue discussed in some circles was the potential trademark violation in Facebook’s automatically creating and populating Community pages for businesses and brands. Another issue picked up by the National Law Journal was that some of the Community Pages created aren’t very flattering to law firms.
If you listed your employment as “Slave” at Skadden Arps, for example, you’re responsible for this page:
What are some of the other interesting law firm-affiliated Community Pages on Facebook?
A college graduate without student loan debt is akin to reading a kind quote about Kim Kardashian in a tabloid—it’s rare.
In the past eight years, student loan debt has nearly tripled to a whopping $1.1 trillion, and in the past 10 years, the percentage of 25-year-olds with such debt has risen from 25% to 43%
It’s gotten so bad, in fact, that New York Fed economists warned last month that the burden of student debt could stilt consumer spending by twentysomethings, as well as further hamper the recovery of the housing market and economy.
To get a better idea of what massive student loan debt (we’re talking over $100,000 massive) looks like, we talked to an attorney who graduated with a large student loan debt. We also consulted LearnVest Planning Services CFP® Katie Brewer to see just how their repayment plans stack up.
S. Fischer, 36, Attorney Graduated: 2001
How Much I Borrowed: $100,000
What I Still Owe: $45,000
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Ed. note: The Asia Chronicles column is authored by Kinney Recruiting. Kinney has made more placements of U.S. associates, counsels and partners in Asia than any other recruiting firm in each of the past six years. You can reach them by email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Deal flow has clearly picked recently up for most US associates, counsels and partners in Hong Kong/China and Singapore. We are on the phone with a lot of these folks on a daily basis, many of whom we have known for years. Further, the head of our Asia team, Evan Jowers, and Kinney’s founder and president, Robert Kinney, frequently meet in person with leading US partners in Asia to assess their needs and keep on top of the inside scoop at as many firms as possible. The need for legal recruiting help in Asia from experienced recruiters appears to be live and well. In March, Evan and Robert were in Beijing at such meetings, in April, Evan was in Hong Kong, and for half of June Evan will be in Shanghai and Hong Kong. Thus its pretty easy for us to tell when there has been an across-the-market pick up in capital markets and corporate work.
On an average day in Asia when Evan and Robert visit firms, they typically have 5 to 9 meetings a day, mostly with US partners in the market. The reason they have these meetings is not simply because Kinney makes a lot of US attorney placements in Asia and that a particular firm may have openings; instead these are just visits with friends. After years of working together as business partners, the folks at Kinney are actually these peoples’ friends. The firms Kinney work closely with in Asia (which is just about every law firm – call us if you want to know the one firm in the world we will never place anyone with again, ever, and why) look forward to the visits, or at least act like they do. After seven years in the market, many of the client partners are former associate candidates. Also, these US partners see Kinney as a very good source of market information as well, because they know how deep their contacts are in the market and how frequently they are speaking to counterparts at peer firms.
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