Social media and attorneys

March 5, 2012
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Social media can be great for advertising, but can be tricky for attorneys to navigate. In fact, the Indiana State Bar Association’s Legal Ethics Committee cautions attorneys against using certain social media.

The Legal Ethics Committee has just released an opinion finding it likely inappropriate for an attorney licensed in Indiana to advertise through a group coupon program, like Groupon.

The state bar suggests that attorneys conduct “rigorous research” before entering into such an advertising arrangement and employ private counsel to guide the attorney through the “dangers inherent” in such marketing.

The opinion comes shortly after the U.S. Chamber of Commerce found that some law firms are using social media and the web to market their product without being up front with the public.

The Institute for Legal Reform, founded by the Chamber of Commerce in the late 1990s, has released the report “The Plaintiffs’ Bar Goes Digital: An Analysis of the Digital Marketing Efforts of Plaintiffs’ Attorneys & Litigation Firms.” The report says that plaintiffs’ firms are spending a lot of money to create and maintain websites, Facebook pages, blogs, YouTube channels, and Twitter handles – often without clearly disclosing that the information is being provided by a law firm.

The report gave the example of searching online the term “cruise ship assault.” The top three results showed two clear law firm websites (a blog and website maintained by the same firm), and one that appeared to be a website devoted to people who have been victims of sex crimes on cruise ships. But that page is also affiliated with the same law firm as the first two results displayed, but one would have to dig a little further to discover that.

Excerpts from the report:

“When combined with the growing popularity of social media, the industry may be on the cusp of a new era of expansion. Social media offers new opportunities and innovative trial attorneys are taking advantage of the new tactics with varying levels of transparency, including marketing efforts disguised as non-legal websites. Additionally, some firms have been criticized by the Wikipedia community for attempting to incorporate content from law firm sponsored websites.”

“Whereas law firms have traditionally had to wait some time before developing a marketing strategy based on new developments or newly passed legislation, social media has allowed even the smallest law firms to seek an immediate competitive edge. Such a practice could reorganize keywords, switch regional markets, and change the target audience, pointing to a new blog post offering information and insights that clarify opportunities for potential clients. And it could all be done in a matter of minutes.”

“Most importantly, regardless of platform or innovation, more users will embrace social media, sharing their personal information, interacting with total strangers, and expressing interests in areas relevant to trial attorneys. The universe of potential plaintiffs will continue to expand, as will the financial resources that trial attorneys dedicate to online recruitment efforts.”

You can read the report online on the ILR’s website.

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  1. in a lawyer discipline case Judge Brown, now removed, was presiding over a hearing about a lawyer accused of the supposedly heinous ethical violation of saying the words "Illegal immigrant." (IN re Barker) http://www.in.gov/judiciary/files/order-discipline-2013-55S00-1008-DI-429.pdf .... I wonder if when we compare the egregious violations of due process by Judge Brown, to her chiding of another lawyer for politically incorrectness, if there are any conclusions to be drawn about what kind of person, what kind of judge, what kind of apparatchik, is busy implementing the agenda of political correctness and making off-limits legit advocacy about an adverse party in a suit whose illegal alien status is relevant? I am just asking the question, the reader can make own conclsuion. Oh wait-- did I use the wrong adjective-- let me rephrase that, um undocumented alien?

  2. of course the bigger questions of whether or not the people want to pay for ANY bussing is off limits, due to the Supreme Court protecting the people from DEMOCRACY. Several decades hence from desegregation and bussing plans and we STILL need to be taking all this taxpayer money to combat mostly-imagined "discrimination" in the most obviously failed social program of the postwar period.

  3. You can put your photos anywhere you like... When someone steals it they know it doesn't belong to them. And, a man getting a divorce is automatically not a nice guy...? That's ridiculous. Since when is need of money a conflict of interest? That would mean that no one should have a job unless they are already financially solvent without a job... A photographer is also under no obligation to use a watermark (again, people know when a photo doesn't belong to them) or provide contact information. Hey, he didn't make it easy for me to pay him so I'll just take it! Well heck, might as well walk out of the grocery store with a cart full of food because the lines are too long and you don't find that convenient. "Only in Indiana." Oh, now you're passing judgement on an entire state... What state do you live in? I need to characterize everyone in your state as ignorant and opinionated. And the final bit of ignorance; assuming a photo anyone would want is lucky and then how much does your camera have to cost to make it a good photo, in your obviously relevant opinion?

  4. Seventh Circuit Court Judge Diane Wood has stated in “The Rule of Law in Times of Stress” (2003), “that neither laws nor the procedures used to create or implement them should be secret; and . . . the laws must not be arbitrary.” According to the American Bar Association, Wood’s quote drives home this point: The rule of law also requires that people can expect predictable results from the legal system; this is what Judge Wood implies when she says that “the laws must not be arbitrary.” Predictable results mean that people who act in the same way can expect the law to treat them in the same way. If similar actions do not produce similar legal outcomes, people cannot use the law to guide their actions, and a “rule of law” does not exist.

  5. Linda, I sure hope you are not seeking a law license, for such eighteenth century sentiments could result in your denial in some jurisdictions minting attorneys for our tolerant and inclusive profession.

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