Social Networking Websites

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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Facebook’s lawyers have been looking for a rumble over the company’s responsibility to turn over user account information in legal cases. Now they’ve got one, thanks to a California juror and his grandstanding defense attorney.

The case stems from a gang violence criminal trial. Members of the Killa Mobb were being tried for a 2008 attack on a San Francisco man at a gas station. One of the 12 angry apathetic men in the jury box, Arturo Ramirez, posted to Facebook during the course of the trial that it was “boring.” Now the Killa Mobb’s defense attorneys want to get a hold of those postings, and any responses from Ramirez’s friends, to prove that he may have been biased — so the Mobb members can get a new trial.

Facebook refused to turn over Ramirez’s information, citing a 1986 law that protects Americans’ electronic communications. Ramirez originally told the Sacramento Bee that he was willing to turn the status messages over, but that was before he linked up with his own defense attorney, Ken Rosenfeld, who looks like he might like a little media attention. Rosenfeld’s now planning to fight tooth and nail to keep his client’s Facebook privacy settings high…

Continue reading at The Not-So Private Parts….

Ed. note: Gabe Acevedo will be covering LegalTech for Above the Law this year. If you are interested in communicating with someone from ATL about LegalTech coverage, please contact Gabe at gabe@gabesguide.com. Thanks.

The pregame show for LegalTech New York 2011 has been in full swing the last few weeks. Vendors and their PR reps have been constantly reaching out via emails, text messages, phone calls, and smoke signals, to contact industry experts, “thought leaders,” law firm decision makers, members of the media, and, perhaps most importantly, knuckleheads like me. All are doing their best to generate “buzz” before they announce their new products, alliances, services — fill in the blank as you see fit — at the conference.

Then, at 9:00 AM on Monday, LegalTech New York will open with what I am certain will be a riveting keynote address from Gabriel Buigas, Vice President and Deputy General Counsel of Hewlett Packard, entitled Legal vs. IT: Turn the Battle into a Solution to Meet Compliance. At that point, everything will reach a crescendo.

Well, not exactly.

Don’t get me wrong; I am sure Gabriel Buigas will give an excellent speech. But the real action will begin at 10 AM, when the doors to the exhibit hall open. That is when all hell breaks loose, and hundreds of technology vendors will be eagerly waiting to share with you the great news about their respective companies.

With that as a backdrop, here is some of what I expect to see at this year’s LegalTech….

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A Facebook photo to rival David Lat's infamous mobile upload of post-operative cysts.

When you allow a photo to be taken, you should expect that it will be shown to others. That’s at the heart of a judge’s decision in the famous placenta photo case. Unless you’ve been stuck inside a womb, you must have heard by now about the placenta that almost aborted a nursing student’s career.

As previously noted, a Kansas judge decided that nursing student Doyle Byrnes shouldn’t have been kicked out of her program for posting a photo of herself posing with a human placenta to Facebook (at right). It was a move worthy only of de-friending by the weak-stomached.

The actual written decision in the case has come out, and there’s some interesting analysis in it, as noted by Eric Goldman at his Technology & Marketing Law Blog. It suggests that “photo-taking automatically means consent to widespread publication of that photo.” We imagine Brett Favre might object to that….

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Here at Above the Law, we’re still enjoying the awesomeness of 1Ls and 2Ls going to war over the appropriate use of a listserv.

Today we’ve got an email more mundane in subject matter, but no less objectionable. It’s from a 1L (of course), who is trying to “network” with fellow 1Ls.

And it’s written by a 1L at Thomas Jefferson Law School, which had a starring role in the recent, widely read New York Times article on the dangers of going to law school. So our more elitist readers are about to have a field day…

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What kind of world are we living in where people post their 1L grades on Facebook? I guess that after years of status updates about your latest biological function, you can fool yourself into thinking that people actually care about your Civ Pro grade. The world is full of navel-gazers.

Companion question: What kind of world are we living in where people get “offended” because somebody posted his 1L grades on Facebook? I know law schools are hyper-competitive places, but at the end of the day, the only thing you can control is your own academic performance. Getting mad because somebody is boasting about his grades is a colossal waste of energy — energy better spent studying for the current semester (or at least trying to steal his girlfriend). Don’t get mad, get even.

I’m not really on either side of the current ridiculousness going down at Boston University School of Law over one guy’s Facebook page. You see, I live in a world where it’s perfectly acceptable to kind of hate everybody….

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Although I have a blog and accounts with Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and even Plaxo, I am not a big “rah rah” social media cheerleader for the sake of being one. There is much about social media that is overhyped, which is probably why I liked G.M. Filisko’s article in the January edition of the ABA Journal, “Social Media or Snake Oil: Does Social Media Measure Up to the Hype?” I saw many parallels in it in terms of how I have used social media and thought it offered some honest advice.

After the jump, I will point out a few things that have helped me along the way with social media — and reveal its biggest “not-so-secret” secret….

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Social media savvy teen causes national controversy in Australia

‘Tis the season for… lover’s revenge via the Internet. Last week, Elie brought you the tale of a cuckolded man who filmed his wife making out with a fellow SMU Law student (and intervened to throw a weak punch). Then the husband posted the sad, sordid video to YouTube. Because shame makes the hurt go away.

Meanwhile, over in the land down under, a 17-year-old in Melbourne is using her social network savvy to punish a couple of Australian football players who allegedly did her wrong. Kim Duthie claims to have scored with two of the players (and to have had a miscarriage as a result). Feeling used and abused, she’s now using all the digital tools at her disposal — Facebook, YouTube, Formspring, and Twitter — to broadcast her story, as well as a handful of naked photos of the St. Kilda football players. This girl makes Karen Owen look like a saint.

And apparently she didn’t think through the legal implications of putting photos of the football players’ “lands down under” up on her Facebook page…

Read on at Forbes.com.

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