Social Networking Websites

In 2009, a paramedic in Connecticut went home and complained about her boss on Facebook. Then she got fired.

“Love how the company allows a 17 to be a supervisor,” 42-year-old Dawnmarie Souza wrote. A “17” is the code her company, the American Medical Response ambulance service, uses for a psychiatric patient. She also called her boss a “scumbag as usual.” Several people joined in the discussion thread.

Her company’s blogging and Internet posting policy prohibited employees from saying anything negative online about the company or its employees.

The National Labor Relations Board found out about Souza’s plight and filed a complaint against the company. In February, AMR agreed to change its Internet policy, as part of a settlement that fundamentally changes the consequences of poor Facebook judgment….

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This is what greeted me when I logged into my Twitter account this morning:

Alas, the Howrey Twitter feed hasn’t been updated since February 9.

In terms of more active feeds, please feel free to follow Above the Law (or yours truly, or Elie Mystal).

You can also follow many leading legal commentators, including several of ATL’s outside contributors, by checking out the feeds that we’re following here at Above the Law, or our list of Favorite Legal Tweeps. Happy tweeting!

Get it into the Ivy League, or die trying.

* The GOP is right — September is a totally arbitrary deadline to re-write No Child Left Behind. Really, why would we need a new education law by the time school starts up again for the year? [Washington Post]

* Protip: if your client is suing a preschool over its TTT curriculum, you probably shouldn’t guarantee that her kid will get into an Ivy League school before she’s out of her Pull-Ups. [New York Daily News]

* “This lawsuit takes the cupcake. It’s all sprinkles and frosting until somebody files a lawsuit.” I think the title of this news story just gave me diabetes. [NBC Los Angeles]

* Charles Munger is donating $20 million to Michigan Law — which just moved up to #7 in the latest U.S. News rankings, by the way — so students in the Lawyers Club can have classier dorm rooms. It’s never too soon to instill the “models and bottles” mindset in young lawyers. [Bloomberg]

* Deval Patrick thinks he’s going to be saving Massholes $48 million by cutting 2,000 attorney jobs. What he’s really going to be doing is bringing tears to the eyes of fourth-tier law grads — er, make that second-tier law grads — and doling out more welfare checks. [MetroWest Daily News]

* Good news, everyone! NALP says that law students are going to be slightly less f*cked when it comes to getting a job. [ABA Journal]

* Too bad Latham didn’t hire a “social media guru” sooner — maybe they would have responded to our request for comment on their new Boston office. Throw us a freakin’ tweet here. [Legal Blog Watch]

Ed. note: This is the latest installment of Small Firms, Big Lawyers, one of Above the Law’s new columns for small-firm lawyers.

Most small law firms are staying away from social media when it comes to marketing, according to a new report from Chicago-based Total Attorneys. The report, which you can see here (a short 6-page PDF), had a section about which marketing methods solos and small firms found most effective. The leading methods were:

  • online directories (17.7%);
  • word of mouth — which isn’t really a method, but more of a thing that happens (15.5%);
  • group-advertising ventures (whatever the hell that is) (13.3%); and
  • Yellow Pages (8.9%).

The takeaway for me from that list is that small-firm lawyers don’t know what they’re doing when it comes to marketing. “Word of mouth” means sit back and hope someone tells someone else to hire me, “group-advertising ventures” sounds like some sort of mail-order scam, and I didn’t know they still printed Yellow Pages. When my daughter asked me what Yellow Pages were, I told her that they were what little kids used to sit on to reach the table. (Sorry, Yellow Pages advertisers. Oh, wait. You’re not reading this because you’re offline.)

But the more-interesting fact to come out of this report is that two-thirds of respondents don’t do social-media marketing at all.…

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The following tale of legal technology took place in our nation’s capital, although it seemed to draw more attention overseas.

Last December, as winter’s grip began to take hold over Washington, D.C., Rodney Knight Jr. found himself in serious need of a heavy jacket. So he did what any of us would have done in these circumstances: he broke into someone’s house and took one. Knight kicked down the back door to the home of Marc Fisher, a metro columnist for the Washington Post, where he found his new winter jacket. In addition, being in a proactive mood, Knight decided to swipe two laptops and a bunch of cash.

Knight was so proud of his little heist that he felt the need to do a little bragging. Check out what one of the greatest criminal masterminds of the early 21st century did next….

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Jeff Cox

What in the world is going on with our state attorneys general?

First there was the amazing Andrew Shirvell, former Michigan assistant attorney general. Shirvell used every form of media, social and otherwise, to stalk make people aware of the demonic student body president of the University of Michigan, Chris Armstrong. Shirvell claimed that Armstrong, who is openly gay, was imposing his notorious “homosexual agenda” on the Wolverine faithful, and had to be stopped. After being banned from the University of Michigan campus and allegedly lying to his boss, Attorney General Mike Cox, Shirvell was finally relieved of his duties.

Last week, another news item caught my interest. Jeffrey Cox, a deputy attorney general in Indiana (no relation to the AG from Michigan), tweeted the liberal magazine Mother Jones that live ammunition should be used against the protestors at the Wisconsin Capitol. A few hours later, he was fired.

Such quick and harsh punishment struck me as going a bit overboard, and it seems that Jeff Cox might have a cause of action on his hands…

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Yours truly and S.D.N.Y. nominee Paul Oetken

* One of my favorite parts of the judicial nomination process is the financial voyeurism it makes possible. Check out the income and net worth numbers for two S.D.N.Y. nominees named Paul: Paul Engelmayer, recognized by ATL as a top partner to work for, and Paul Oetken, who would become the first openly gay man to serve on the S.D.N.Y. if confirmed. [The BLT: The Blog of Legal Times]

* Some happier news for Hunton & Williams: partner Kyle Sampson, a prominent figure in the U.S. Attorney firing scandal, has been awarded a D.C. law license (after a two-year battle). [Main Justice]

* Now that the DOJ will no longer defend DOMA, married gay couples, represented by prominent immigration lawyer Lavi Soloway, plan to challenge the law in immigration court. [Stop the Deportations]

* A status update in the Facebook juror case: the California Supreme Court wants some briefing. [Sacramento Bee via @KashHill]

Rep. Christopher Lee (R-NY)

* Lawyerly Lairs: Retired Law Professor Edition. Amidst all the bellyaching by state workers demanding rich, defined-benefit pensions (which are basically extinct in the private sector), isn’t it nice to read about two old people who can pay for their own retirements — and a $3.3 million condo? [New York Times]

* Wondering why Rep. Christopher Lee stepped down so quickly? Here’s a possible answer. [Gawker]

* Musical chairs: Indianapolis-based Barnes & Thornburg takes six lawyers from Akin Gump and opens a new Los Angeles office. [Indiana Lawyer]

* If you’re done with the February bar exam, congratulations! Here are some ways to celebrate (besides going to Disney World). [Lawyerist]

I think that in this day and age that tweet was not a good idea, and in terms of that language, I’m not going to use it anymore.

Jeffrey Cox, former deputy attorney general in Indiana, commenting on the controversial tweets that got him fired from his government job.

P.S. If you’re on Twitter, please feel free to follow Above the Law, @ATLblog.

Ed. note: This is the latest installment of Small Firms, Big Lawyers, one of Above the Law’s new columns for small-firm lawyers.

Many large law firms forbid their lawyers from visiting social-media sites at work. Some have actual software blocks, preventing sites like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn from loading on firm computers. Other firms tacitly discourage visiting these sites, since six minutes wasted on them are six minutes that could have been billed.

Small firms are less likely to have these policies or blocking programs, mainly because small firms are less likely to have any policies. Or IT departments.

This is partly a generational issue. On the one hand, you’ve got the Millennials, who are used to having IM chats, Pandora songs, and Facebook walls running in the background while they bash away at Lexis or Microsoft Word. On the other hand, you have more-senior (or just plain “senior”) lawyers, for whom the Interwebs are something to either be feared or restricted to off-duty hours.

Generationally, I’m somewhere in between. I’m 43, placing me at the early end of Generation X. Millennials make me feel old. When I started hiring twenty-something lawyers, I found their IM chats in the background jarring. But I quickly learned that this had no impact on their ability to get work done. They were far more able to multitask than I was, and it seemed silly to make a rule about social-media sites.

Also, a facility with social media comes in handy in a litigation practice. For example, several years ago, a client of ours fired an employee for taking unauthorized time off. The young female professional sought a leave in December to have some elective surgery — to wit, breast implants. (Note for law students: The phrase “to wit” must never be used unironically. And if you ever find yourself writing “to wit: a shod foot,” you need to leave the practice of law immediately.)

The young woman’s employer didn’t seem to a have a fundamental problem with her getting … enhanced. The problem was the timing. The holiday season was their busiest time of year, and they couldn’t afford to lose her then. But she went and did it anyway, and they fired her for the unauthorized leave.

You can imagine what happened next….

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By now, everyone has seen the Volkswagen Super Bowl commercial featuring Max Page as a pint-sized Darth Vader. You know, Max Page — the kid who plays Baby Reed on The Young and The Restless. You mean to tell me you don’t watch a little Y&R? Yeah, I don’t either, and I also hadn’t heard of him until the ad came out.

If you are one of the four people in the world who hasn’t seen this commercial yet, check it out here (first ad). The minute-long video features Page dressed in a Darth Vader costume trying (and failing) to use the Force on everything from his dog to the washing machine to his sandwich, with the Imperial March theme playing throughout in the background. When his father comes home in his shiny Volkswagen Passat, Page runs out not to greet him but to attempt to use the Force on the car. As he focuses all of his energy on it, the Passat suddenly starts.

The audience is quickly made aware that the car started not because of this little Vader’s supernatural abilities, but due to the father starting it remotely from the kitchen. Although Page is wearing a mask, you can imagine the look of surprise on his face as he turns in astonishment toward his parents. As I read online from one random commenter, the commercial managed to capture the spirit of Star Wars better than Lucas did in his last three prequels.

What many people don’t know is that Volkswagen used some of the Force itself with its social-media marketing — and that campaign may provide useful marketing lessons for attorneys. The company managed to not only create one of the most popular commercials during the Super Bowl, but also saved itself at least $3 million dollars in the process.

Is there any way lawyers could implement something similar?

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