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. So that none are misinformed by my posting wihtout a non de plume here, please allow me to state that I am NOT an Indiana licensed attorney, although I am an Indiana resident approved to practice law and represent clients in Indiana's fed court of Nth Dist and before the 7th circuit. I remain licensed in KS, since 1996, no discipline. This must be clarified since the IN court records will reveal that I did sit for and pass the Indiana bar last February. Yet be not confused by the fact that I was so allowed to be tested .... I am not, to be clear in the service of my duty to be absolutely candid about this, I AM NOT a member of the Indiana bar, and might never be so licensed given my unrepented from errors of thought documented in this opinion, at fn2, which likely supports Mr Smith's initial post in this thread: http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-7th-circuit/1592921.html

  2. When I served the State of Kansas as Deputy AG over Consumer Protection & Antitrust for four years, supervising 20 special agents and assistant attorneys general (back before the IBLE denied me the right to practice law in Indiana for not having the right stuff and pretty much crushed my legal career) we had a saying around the office: Resist the lure of the ring!!! It was a take off on Tolkiem, the idea that absolute power (I signed investigative subpoenas as a judge would in many other contexts, no need to show probable cause)could corrupt absolutely. We feared that we would overreach constitutional limits if not reminded, over and over, to be mindful to not do so. Our approach in so challenging one another was Madisonian, as the following quotes from the Father of our Constitution reveal: The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse. We are right to take alarm at the first experiment upon our liberties. I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations. Liberty may be endangered by the abuse of liberty, but also by the abuse of power. All men having power ought to be mistrusted. -- James Madison, Federalist Papers and other sources: http://www.constitution.org/jm/jm_quotes.htm RESIST THE LURE OF THE RING ALL YE WITH POLITICAL OR JUDICIAL POWER!

  3. My dear Mr Smith, I respect your opinions and much enjoy your posts here. We do differ on our view of the benefits and viability of the American Experiment in Ordered Liberty. While I do agree that it could be better, and that your points in criticism are well taken, Utopia does indeed mean nowhere. I think Madison, Jefferson, Adams and company got it about as good as it gets in a fallen post-Enlightenment social order. That said, a constitution only protects the citizens if it is followed. We currently have a bevy of public officials and judicial agents who believe that their subjectivism, their personal ideology, their elitist fears and concerns and cause celebs trump the constitutions of our forefathers. This is most troubling. More to follow in the next post on that subject.

  4. Yep I am not Bryan Brown. Bryan you appear to be a bigger believer in the Constitution than I am. Were I still a big believer then I might be using my real name like you. Personally, I am no longer a fan of secularism. I favor the confessional state. In religious mattes, it seems to me that social diversity is chaos and conflict, while uniformity is order and peace.... secularism has been imposed by America on other nations now by force and that has not exactly worked out very well.... I think the American historical experiment with disestablishmentarianism is withering on the vine before our eyes..... Since I do not know if that is OK for an officially licensed lawyer to say, I keep the nom de plume.

  5. I am compelled to announce that I am not posting under any Smith monikers here. That said, the post below does have a certain ring to it that sounds familiar to me: http://www.catholicnewworld.com/cnwonline/2014/0907/cardinal.aspx

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