Social Networking Websites

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

When 1,500 lawyers gathered at this week’s ABA TechShow in Chicago, an interesting thing happened:

The business card died.

When these lawyers weren’t listening to the dozens of cutting-edge seminars or browsing the exhibitors’ booths, they were making new friends and new professional connections. But instead of exchanging business cards, many of the attendees were trading Twitter handles — their online identities that begin with the @ symbol. (I’m @jayshep.) Massachusetts lawyer Gabriel Cheong (@gabrielcheong) told me that by the end of the conference, he had collected exactly zero business cards. (I immediately gave him one of mine. #irony) Instead of accumulating two-by-three-and-a-half-inch scraps of cardstock, he typed their Twitter names directly into his iPhone. (And I doubt anyone actually said, “Uh, I’m not on the Twitter.”) Molly McDonough (@Molly_McDonough), online editor at the ABA Journal, tweeted at the end of the conference: “For first time, I didn’t collect any biz cards at #abatechshow. Just made note of names and followed on Twitter.” Others retweeted (quoted) her tweet with approval.

So does this mean it’s time for small-firm lawyers to learn how to tweet?

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

I’m reporting to you live from Chicago at the 25th Annual ABA TechShow, where an amazing group of passionate lawyers from around the country have gathered to talk and teach about the future of law practice. While many of the programs deal with technology, the underlying theme seems to be that change is coming to our industry, and we should probably figure this stuff out before it’s too late.

As Elie reported yesterday, I had the chance to present at the IgniteLaw 2011 program, which made for a pre-Conference kickoff Sunday night. I’m not going to talk about my presentation here — suffice to say it included references to Blade Runner, cannibalistic English food, and Hale and Dorr’s WilmerHale’s invention of the billable hour in 1919. (That was the same year that Prohibition started. Coincidence? I think not.)

Instead, I’m going to talk about the constraints placed on every speaker — because they were frickin’ crazy.…

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Thanks to Ben Mezrich, David Fincher, and Aaron Sorkin, we all feel like we know the backstory of the creation of Facebook (shameless plug: please like the ATL Facebook page). It goes something like this: Mark Zuckerberg was a shady little brat, who screwed over his one friend while he was building what would become a multi-billion-dollar company. Roll credits.

Legally, just yesterday it seemed that Zuckerberg and Facebook were finally in the clear. The Ninth Circuit told the amazingly privileged Winkelvoss twins to go away, and it appeared that everybody could go back to masturbating to Facebook friends without worrying about who really owned the thing.

But not so fast. There is another outstanding Facebook lawsuit that has recently been amended and refiled in federal court. We’ve reported before on the claims of fraudster Paul Ceglia. Now he’s back, and he’s got some explosive new evidence to support his claims to 50% ownership in Facebook — as well as new counsel.

Is the evidence credible? It depends: do you trust DLA Piper?

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The Winklevoss twins might be hot -- but their case is not, according to the Ninth Circuit.

If you enjoyed The Social Network, then perhaps you should be grateful to Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss. The lawsuit they filed against Facebook and Facebook’s founder, Mark Zuckerberg, gave rise to excellent entertainment. The movie wouldn’t have been possible without it.

But now the litigation is getting… old. And some people just want the Winklevoss twins to go away. Like three judges on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

In a ruling handed down today, rejecting the Winklevosses’s effort to overturn an earlier settlement with Facebook and Zuckerberg, the Ninth Circuit dispensed some stinging benchslaps. The opinion contains detailed and erudite analysis of both California contract law and federal securities law, but it can be summarized in four words: “Winklevii, STFU and GTFO.” (Feel free to use that in your headnotes, Westlaw and Lexis.)

Who wrote the opinion? None other than the ever-colorful Chief Judge Alex Kozinski, of course!

Let’s see what His Honor had to say — plus learn about additional Kozinski-related and movie-related news….

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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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