Social Media

Is the internet good or evil? Well, neither — the internet, just like the information you find on it, is really what you make of it. Some people use information for good purposes, and some use it for bad.

Here at Above the Law, we tend to see the internet as a force for good. We use our bandwidth on the web to entertain and to educate. Our view is that, in general, more information is good. With more information, people can make better choices about their lives and careers. Should I go to law school? If so, which law school? And what about law firms? Which firms are the best places to work?

But you can use the internet for anything, really. For some folks, to quote the popular song from the musical Avenue Q, The Internet Is For Porn — and so much more, from the shady to the downright illegal….

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Social media is no longer new. This month, Facebook turns ten, joining LinkedIn, which hit the decade mark back in May. Lawyers have been blogging even longer than that, with the earliest lawyer blogs launched fifteen years ago. Even the book on Social Media for Lawyers that I co-authored with Nicole Black has been out for nearly four years.

Yet after all this time, social media still has limited traction in the legal profession, with few firms using social media for its “best and highest use”: engaging and interacting with colleagues and clients. Instead, large firms treat social media as another marketing channel to disseminate firm news and press releases, according to a recent ATL study, while solos and smalls treat social media as a poor man’s search-engine optimizer.  It’s no wonder that many practicing lawyers deride social media generally as a waste of time and counsel their colleagues to focus on traditional in-person networking, like meeting colleagues for lunch or getting involved in bar associations, to generate visibility and referrals.

Still, I wouldn’t give up on social media yet. The fact that so few lawyers understand how to use social media correctly makes it a powerful tool for solo and small firm lawyers. Here are three ways to use social media to get the most out of traditional, in-person networking, and to create new opportunities for yourself:

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Have you ever sat around and thought, “Hey, I’d love to file a frivolous, nay sanctionable, lawsuit,” but just didn’t know where to get started? Well, you’re in luck — there’s an app for that! Never again will you be left wondering about just how crazy you can get with your harassing complaint.

Hurray for the Internet!

The folks behind it are trying to make a serious point about the high price of frivolous lawsuits. Not sure their motives are entirely pure, but it’s a fun little toy to play with, so let’s do that, shall we?

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Throughout 2013, along with our friends at Good2BSocial, ATL researched the social media practices of law firms. The research had three components: (1) a review of the websites and social media profiles of the Am Law 50 across all public platforms, including an assessment of each firm’s publicly available content as well as social reach and engagement (number of followers, comments, etc.); (2) a survey of the firms themselves regarding the extent to which they are currently using social technologies and practices internally; and (3) a survey of the ATL readership to glean the perspective of practicing attorneys and other legal professionals.

We are publishing the results of this research in two stages. Back in December, we published a white paper summarizing our findings and analysis. (Sign up here to receive a free download of the paper.) Our findings show that, while the majority of the Am Law 50 are established on the major public social media platforms, their presence often exhibits only a token effort. Generally speaking, there is little evidence that Biglaw is addressing the social media landscape strategically rather than using it as just another marketing channel for firm news and press releases. That said, some Biglaw firms are distinguishing themselves with the reach, engagement, and creativity of their social media efforts.

Today we publish the second component of our findings: our inaugural Social Law Firm Index, where we identify which specific firms are making the most effective use of social media…

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The past year or so has been an epic period for snarky responses to cease and desist letters. We’ve seen hilariously irreverent responses to C&D letters telling off the likes of Starbucks, the American Bankers Association, and the Township of West Orange.

And now Hollywood celebrities are throwing themselves into the mix. Which “seriously out of control” young actor just got saucy over Twitter in response to a lawyer’s letter?

Here’s a hint: Is this kid Lawless?

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Call it a “Legal Blogger Summit.” Call it “Blawgocolypse 2014″ or “Law Bloggers, Now With Sound,” but we’re calling it the “Attorney@Blog Conference,” a first-of-its-kind, one-day convocation of the leading legal bloggers, taking place on Friday, March 14th, at the Yale Club of NYC. The conference will feature a series of panel discussions covering an array of exigent issues facing the legal blogging community, including free speech, race and gender, and technology. ATL editors David Lat, Elie Mystal, Joe Patrice, and Staci Zaretsky will serve as moderators. Panelists will include stars of the legal blogosphere, from journalists to academics to activists. While we’re still finalizing our lineup of speakers and panelists, we wanted to give you an early look at the day’s schedule. We’ll be adding details as they’re confirmed. Click here for all the details.

‘Manage me, Mark O’Mara.’

Not only have I done nothing wrong in regards to how we managed the defense fund and the online presence for the Zimmerman case, but I think we also set the standard for how these matters should be handled in future high-profile cases that warrant such measures.

Mark O’Mara, former defense attorney to George Zimmerman, commenting on the Florida Bar’s ethics investigation into whether he properly managed his client’s defense fund and social media presence. O’Mara’s full statement can be seen here.

(For all of the trouble O’Mara’s going through, we wondered if the proceeds of this eBay sale for Zimmerman’s artwork would be used to pay his outstanding legal bills. Let’s find out what Zimmerman had to say about that.)

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Give a hand for the law’s lack of diversity.

* When it comes to the air pollution case that’s currently before the Supreme Court, it seems like the justices had absolutely no difficulty at all in evaluating the type of problem at hand. It’s apparently a “tough” one and a “hard” one. [New York Times]

* Thanks to the historic new Senate rules put into action last month, Patricia Ann Millett, the co-head of Akin Gump’s Supreme Court and national appellate practice group, has been confirmed to the D.C. Circuit. You go girl! [Post Politics / Washington Post]

* The Senate showdown isn’t quite over yet, folks. We could see another confirmation vote on Georgetown Law professor Nina Pillard’s nomination to the D.C. Circuit sometime today. [Blog of Legal Times]

* “We risk failure in having a profession that is as diverse as the country we serve.” OMG guys, the legal profession is bad at diversity. This is new information that no one’s heard before. [National Law Journal]

* Now that the recession is over, women are gaining their jobs back faster than all their male counterparts. Not to worry, guys — they’re still being paid 77 cents to every dollar a man earns. [Corporate Counsel]

* Here are the top five social media mishaps by lawyers and law students of 2013. If you value your career, you should really try not to do any of these embarrassing things during the new year. [Strategist / FindLaw]

Can Biglaw solve this puzzle?

Most every law firm — including 100 percent of the Am Law 50 — maintains a Linkedin company page. Or rather, “maintains” such a presence on that most buttoned-up of all the social media platforms. A quick look at the LinkedIn pages of the Vault top 10 shows that only two firms bothered to change their page’s default setting to display “Services” rather than the inapt “Products” tab on the navigation menu. (Kudos to Kirkland and Debevoise!) This might seem like the most trivial of nits to pick, but aren’t these firms defined by fanatical attention to detail? Yet this nonchalance is emblematic of Biglaw’s unsettled relationship with social media.

We can safely assume that Biglaw’s old guard just wants social media to get off its lawn already, but what data we have strongly suggests that, as organizations, firms believe — or act as if they believe — that engagement with social media is worth doing (pace Brian Tannenbaum). When we examine the particulars of how they are managing this engagement, firms should hope that there is truth to Chesterton’s dictum: “If a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing badly….”

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Law firms certainly have an interest in protecting their reputations from all threats foreign and domestic. By domestic, of course, we mean the damage that a lawyer can cause by posting dick picks on any of the multiple social media platforms out there. Social media snafus can reveal professional lapses or dangerous biases.

And if a lawyer embarrasses themselves on the Internet, there are people with high-profile, industry-leading publications that might just write about it.

But social media policing can also degenerate into paranoid intrusions into the private lives of lawyers. One firm has a social media policy that reads like the PATRIOT Act — at least to the extent it seems to provide the firm open-ended authority to govern the social media profiles of its lawyers….

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