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Indiana State Bar Association finds many using social media

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Results of the Indiana State Bar Association’s social media survey are in, and they show what many lawyers already know: social media is becoming a larger part of daily life.

About 2,000 people – roughly 20 percent of members – responded to the ISBA survey, with 500 of them stating that they are using social media more often and becoming more comfortable with it.

The survey included several questions about how members use social media. Listing eight social media platforms – Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Myspace, YouTube, Foursquare, Google+ and blogs – the survey asked members to note which social media platforms they used and for what purpose. Not all members noted how they use all social media. The majority of survey respondents reported preferring Facebook for personal use and LinkedIn for professional use. Of the 1,038 people who responded about Twitter, 26.2 percent reported having a personal Twitter account. Of those who responded about YouTube, 743 reported using YouTube for personal use. The majority of respondents said they were not familiar with the social media platform Foursquare, which allows users to check-in virtually at locations.

Séamus Boyce, an attorney for Church Church Hittle and Antrim who chairs the state bar’s public relations committee, said he was pleased to see that nearly 70 percent of survey respondents reported using social media to some extent.

“It’s pretty clear that social media has become an important issue in just a typical Indiana lawyer’s life, and I think the state bar thinks that’s a trend that’s going to continue,” he said.

New frontiers

Some cautionary tales exist about how not to use social media. Lawyers may remember that earlier this year, an Indiana deputy attorney general was fired after making inflammatory comments on Twitter. And with nearly 43 percent of ISBA survey respondents saying their firm has no policies about social media use, attorneys may be on their own when it comes to figuring out what to say – and what not to say – on social media platforms.

wilson-seth-mug.jpg Wilson

Seth Wilson, an attorney with Hume Smith Geddes Green & Simmons, said attorneys would be wise to think about the large audience social networks have. As assistant director of the International Legal Technical Standards Organization, he has researched ethical concerns associated with technology use.

“Use your head. If your clients have given you their informed consent to broadcast their news to the world, and you’ve got that in writing, you might be OK. But, just use your head – the biggest thing is common sense,” he said.

Wilson said attorneys need to be cautious about accidentally disclosing client information on social media platforms and making statements that could be construed as advertising.

“It’s a rule of reasonableness, but part of it is, hey, I’m informing the world of what I do and it can’t be tied back to a particular client, I’m just commenting about my work,” he said. But if an attorney posts on Facebook that he just left a hearing, that statement could potentially be construed as saying too much.

“The biggest question is – do I want to be a test case for making that comment and finding out what happens?”

Boyce has a Twitter account – @SchoolCounsel, which he uses to post about legal issues in education. “We don’t have any formal policy – it’s not discouraged. I think that is our policy,” he said. “Being chair of the PR committee, I felt like I had to at least utilize it.”

Policy trends

seamus-boyce-mug.jpg Boyce

Boyce said he anticipates a decrease in the number of firms without social media policies. Developing policies, Wilson said, may help firms manage their own reputations online and help keep attorneys out of trouble.

“As our world continues to grow connected, the lines between what’s firm, what’s personal and what’s private life continue to blur, so I think just having some clear guidelines for that can help the firm establish that what we’re doing – what that attorney is doing – is reasonable,” Wilson said.

The ISBA is already ahead of the curve nationally, Boyce believes, in its understanding and use of social media. It has an interactive Facebook page and features on its website online discussion groups for members. Boyce said the PR committee will work with the bar’s other committees to explore how social media could be used. And the committee recently held its first Continuing Legal Education seminar on the topic of social media, bringing in a representative from the American Bar Association to present on the topic.

Whether Facebook and Twitter will emerge as a successful marketing tool for law firms remains to be seen, but Wilson wonders how effective such marketing strategies would be.

“What you find as a lawyer looking at Twitter is other lawyers, and I’m not always in the market to go hire another lawyer,” he said. •

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  1. Im very happy for you, getting ready to go down that dirt road myself, and im praying for the same outcome, because it IS sometimes in the childs best interest to have visitation with grandparents. Thanks for sharing, needed to hear some positive posts for once.

  2. Been there 4 months with 1 paycheck what can i do

  3. our hoa has not communicated any thing that takes place in their "executive meetings" not executive session. They make decisions in these meetings, do not have an agenda, do not notify association memebers and do not keep general meetings minutes. They do not communicate info of any kind to the member, except annual meeting, nobody attends or votes because they think the board is self serving. They keep a deposit fee from club house rental for inspection after someone uses it, there is no inspection I know becausee I rented it, they did not disclose to members that board memebers would be keeping this money, I know it is only 10 dollars but still it is not their money, they hire from within the board for paid positions, no advertising and no request for bids from anyone else, I atteended last annual meeting, went into executive session to elect officers in that session the president brought up the motion to give the secretary a raise of course they all agreed they hired her in, then the minutes stated that a diffeerent board member motioned to give this raise. This board is very clickish and has done things anyway they pleased for over 5 years, what recourse to members have to make changes in the boards conduct

  4. Where may I find an attorney working Pro Bono? Many issues with divorce, my Disability, distribution of IRA's, property, money's and pressured into agreement by my attorney. Leaving me far less than 5% of all after 15 years of marriage. No money to appeal, disabled living on disability income. Attorney's decision brought forward to judge, no evidence ever to finalize divorce. Just 2 weeks ago. Please help.

  5. For the record no one could answer the equal protection / substantive due process challenge I issued in the first post below. The lawless and accountable only to power bureaucrats never did either. All who interface with the Indiana law examiners or JLAP be warned.

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