Social Networking Websites

The legal profession isn’t known for its sense of humor. On the contrary, most attorneys take themselves way too seriously. As a result, we see some pretty ridiculous attorney advertising that ends up being unintentionally funny. And while we’re happy to poke gentle fun at these websites and ads, our commentary isn’t always well received. Because another thing that lawyers aren’t known for is the ability to accept criticism.

Knoxville attorney Stephen A. Burroughs, a personal injury and auto accident lawyer and my new favorite person, is an exception to these rules. Anyone from the Knoxville area is likely familiar with Burroughs, having seen his serious, bearded face on billboards all over town.

The ads were so ubiquitous, and Burroughs’s gaze so smoldering and intense, that someone created a Facebook page devoted to Stephen A. Burroughs Memes, transforming Burroughs into Knoxville’s answer to The Most Interesting Man in the World. As the Facebook page gained popularity, the funny memes started pouring in.

Even better than the jokes, though, was Burroughs’s unexpectedly awesome response….

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Can gay marriage be stopped? Professor Tribe thinks not.

* Professor Laurence Tribe on “the constitutional inevitability of same-sex marriage.” [SCOTUSblog]

* You can sleep when you’re dead — and you can prevail against the IRS in litigation, too (as the late Ken Lay just did). [TaxProf Blog]

* Speaking of the dead, just because someone is burglarizing your business doesn’t mean you can kill them. [Jonathan Turley via WSJ Law Blog]

* Professor Daniel Hamermesh asks: “Why not offer legal protections to the ugly, as we do with racial, ethnic and religious minorities, women and handicapped individuals?” [New York Times via ABA Journal]

* Meanwhile, Michele Bachmann wonders if the recent earthquake and hurricane constitute messages from God. [Dealbreaker]

Michele Bachmann

* Professor Larry Ribstein: “Law is waiting for its Steve Jobs (or Bill Gates). When he or she arrives it could be a lot more important than the iPhone.” [Truth on the Market]

* This juror should at least have put the defendant on “Limited Profile.” [Fort Worth Star-Telegram]

* Is the Stolen Valor Act unconstitutional? Let’s talk Turkey. [The Atlantic]

* Additional discussion of the recent New Jersey Supreme Court ruling on eyewitness testimony (which we mentioned last week). [Mother Jones]

Like many of you on the East Coast, I’ve been spending my Sunday without power, thanks to Hurricane Irene. As I write this Sunday night, we’re in our eighth hour without electricity. Thankfully, other than losing some small branches and a bunch of leaves, we fared pretty well in what was left of the tropical storm. And the Red Sox swept their storm-related Saturday doubleheader, so there’s that.

But without electricity, I’m writing this post by candlelight and quill pen. OK, not really. Candlelight and iPad. But consider that I’m sacrificing one of my ten hours of iPad juice for this instead of beating my kids at Cut the Rope, or whatever. I know: you can thank me later.

Actually, losing power got me thinking about just how much I rely on electricity and computers and iPads and iPhones, and also how much that reliance has increased since I started law school, 20 years ago this week. And over the years, I came to appreciate just how much technology has allowed small firms to compete with our Biglaw colleagues.

What are the five biggest ways that technology has empowered (if you will) small firms?

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Are you oversharing?

It’s strange how quickly the world changes. Things used to be so simple, but now Steve Jobs has resigned from Apple and we’re having earthquakes in Washington, D.C.

Moreover, some fundamental rules of online conduct are beginning to look like artifacts from a bygone era when people were crazy for RAZRs and nu metal.

Gone are the days of not Facebook friending coworkers. Online oversharing on social networking sites has simply become sharing. And workplaces have to adjust their rules and policies accordingly.

A National Labor Relations Board report released last week attempts to explain the changing legal standards for social media usage in the workplace. Written by the NLRB’s general counsel, Lafe E. Solomon, the document provides several case studies to illuminate how much smack-talking employees can do online while remaining legally protected.

In short, it’s a lot. Still, not quite everything is different. Calling your boss a “super mega puta” will still land you in the chokey. More on this and some of the other case studies, after the jump….

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Click if you "like" this wall.

* Germany essentially outlaws the “like” button on Facebook. Really, why did we let them reunify? Did we all honestly think that was a good idea? [BuzzMachine]

* West Memphis Three could be getting out of jail. Umm… hide yo’ kids, hide yo’ wife? [WSJ Law Blog]

* Is an MBA just as bad of a bet as a JD? [Law & More]

* The hippies who don’t like genetically engineered crops need to remember that not everybody can afford to waste money on produce grown inefficiently archaically organically. [Volokh Conspiracy]

* Is that kiddie porn on your shirt or did you just buy it from Urban Outfitters? [Gawker]

* You can’t blame your e-discovery vendor when things go wrong. [Law & Technology / Forbes]

* I’m very glad that everybody is now here at the “there’s a huge problem with the market for legal education” party. Can I interest anybody in the “prospective law students are incapable of making a rational choice” punch? It’s spiked with Absolut Special Snowflake and it gives everybody the same deranged sense of self worth as new law student. [Truth on the Market]

* Of course, if you absolutely must go to law school, think outside the box and be ready to take advantage of any opportunity. You are responsible for your own career from day one. [An Associate's Mind]

Judge Terence Evans

* Professor Eugene Volokh poses this question to his readers (we considered a similar query before): “I Got Awful Grades My First Year in Law School. Should I Quit?” [Volokh Conspiracy]

* I’m not that familiar with canon law, but I don’t think it looks favorably upon alleged groping of teenage girls. [La Crosse Tribune]

* Professor Douglas Berman wonders if there should be a social networking website designed for use by prisoners. (Commenter challenge: come up with a name for this “Facebook for jailbirds” social network.) [Sentencing Law and Policy]

* Stroock stricken with lawsuit by former partner. [Am Law Daily]

* Professor Paul Horwitz’s (thoughtful and measured) response to the law prof turned scamblogger. [Prawfsblawg]

* Seventh Circuit Judge Terence Evans, RIP. [Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel]

When I was in college, it was not altogether uncommon for people to leave their laptops unattended with their Facebook accounts still logged in. It was not altogether uncommon for an enterprising prankster to creatively twiddle with said account. A little switch of sexual preference here, a mildly offensive profile picture there, and maybe a nonsensical new profile quote.

It was annoying, and at worst required minor social media damage control, but nobody seemed to care much.

Nowadays, people definitely care. The California Court of Appeals ruled on July 21 that the same sort of online mischief can lead to felony identity theft conviction.

Let’s learn more about Rolando S., a teenager who messed with the wrong Facebook account….

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Over the 13 years I ran Shepherd Law Group, I employed lawyers of varying ages. I had fortysomethings (full disclosure: I’m 43, although I really don’t look a day over 42), I had thirtysomethings, and I had twentysomethings. This last group, the so-called Millennials, were almost a completely different species. For example, in law school, these newbies click-clacked on laptops in the classroom — even during exams. They communicated with law professors using the email. And they had no idea what a mix tape was.

In practice, it turns out that they work differently, too. I remember walking into the office of one of my newer Millennials when she was working on a summary-judgment brief. Her desk looked like the desk of any brief-writing lawyer, with files and cases and books all over it. But what really struck me was her computer desktop. It must have had 20 windows open, many with tabs hiding other screens.

But at least one of the screens was Facebook, and another was an instant-messaging client. I could see that the IM screen was showing an active conversation. Another screen showed Pandora, which was streaming music I didn’t recognize (it was Portishead) at a reasonably low volume.

I was stunned. How could she get the brief done with all these distractions?

So what did I do about it?

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Small Firms, Big Lawyers: Don’t Trust Your Young Associates!”

I always assumed that my youth (or quasi-youth) would guarantee me superstar status in connection with social media. I am not sure why I thought this, because my first foray into Facebook was a bit of a disaster. I was quite late to the party, joining years after I realized that everyone was doing it. To compensate, I went on a mad dash to accumulate as many friends as possible. I sent out friend requests to people that I had barely known, mistreated, been mistreated by and would not acknowledge if I saw them on the street. I would also accept anyone’s friend request. I recall that about a month after I joined, a man with no common friends sent me a request. His name was “Summertime,” he had no last name, and his picture was him without a shirt and holding what appeared to be an ax. I gladly accepted his request. Looking back, I shudder to think what a social media expert would have concluded was my personal brand based on viewing my profile.

Years later, when I became @ValerieLKatz, I forgot my Facebook failure and assumed that I would be a Twitter phenomenon. I believed, as with Facebook, that the only thing that mattered was to have a lot of tweeps.

So how do you get the tweeps, I wondered?

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There’s not much I can add to this Weinergate thing that hasn’t already been covered on these pages and everywhere else. Congressman Anthony Weiner has said that he’s not going to resign over the scandal that he tweeted various body parts to women other than his wife. I believe that he will have to resign, although not because of the tweeting, but because of the lying about it afterward. (Previously, he claimed that his social-media accounts had been hacked. He then admitted that that wasn’t strictly true. Or even a little bit true. He also conceded that the dog had actually not eaten his homework.)

This online imbroglio has made many wonder why he would even consider posting compromising photos and language on Twitter. Or for that matter, why he would even be on Twitter in the first place. Or why anyone would be.

Lawyers in particular often have trouble understanding why they should be on Twitter. Even my esteemed colleague Mark Herrmann has “proved” that Twitter doesn’t work. Well, I’ve got news for people who doubt that they should be tweeting:

Many of them probably shouldn’t be.

In fact, I’ve tried to identify the types of people (in addition to shirtless politicians in various degrees of arousal) who should stay away from Twitter. Here, then, are five people who should never tweet….

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