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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. 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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