Law Firms Online: Risks & Opportunities

Jennifer Ellis, Esq.
Lowenthal & Abrams, PC & Jennifer Ellis, JD

• Brief discussion on elderly and social media • Analysis of online advertising
– Tools – Techniques – Ethics

Social Media is for the Young?
• Over 40 million Americans 65 and older use social media • 74+ fastest growing demographic

Elderly and Social Media
• • • • • Find new friends Keep in touch with family See grandchildren growing Stat involved in others lives even if stuck home Provides access to information

• Scammers
– Identify theft – Financial theft – Fraud

• Malware
– Part of scamming

• Fakers
– See Te’o

Positives Greater than Negatives
• • • • Emotional support Connect with physicians Decreases isolation Decreases depression

Attorneys and Social Media

What is the Difference between a Cocktail Party and the Web?

• Our reputations are all we have • Obligation to “Maintain the Integrity of the Profession” (8.x) • It is easy to say something foolish online and have the statement go viral

Keep In Mind
• Rules that apply off-line apply on-line

• Amount of possible trouble is expanded by the reach of the Internet

Your Online Presence Is
• A networking tool • An advertising medium • A research tool • Your online reputation

Potential Clients Must

• Find you • See your expertise • Feel comfortable with you

Ask Yourself
• • • • • Who hires you? How will they find you? Where are they looking? Why do they need you? What do you have to offer?

Be Easy to Find
• • • • • • • Website Blog Google+ Facebook LinkedIn Twitter Numerous other sites

Most Popular Sites

ADS Google+


Facebook Avvo GeoLocation LinkedIn Twitter Other YouTube

Blogs & Websites
1. Website – Center of online presence
1. Blog
1. Valuable SEO 2. Constantly changing content

2. SEO – Search Engine Optimization
1. Google 2. Bing 3. Yahoo

Website & Blog Software
• WordPress
– Free – Relatively easy – Purchase or free themes – Built in (and improvable) SEO Features

• Good Host Important
– Host Gator – Blue Host

• 1 in 4 people read blogs • Law firms increasing use of blogs • Best way to show your
– Voice – Knowledge

• Most valuable SEO tool • Place for detailed content • You have control

• What questions do people ask at the consultation?
– Answer

• What is current in the news related to your practice?
– Explain

• Relevant cases or laws?
– Discuss

• What interests you as a person?
– Share

• • • • • •

Malware Prevention on WordPress Websites and Blogs Resolve to Backup your Data Following the T’eo Story – And Other Internet Fakers Ever thought about building your own computer? Facebook jumps on the social search bandwagon Update Java Right Now. Mac, Linux or PC, All Are Vulnerable • Pinterest creates business pages • Twitter sinks a personal injury case

• Why won’t a lawyer take my Philadelphia medical malpractice case? • Pennsylvania Fatal Truck Accidents on the Rise • Elder abuse is on the rise in Pennsylvania and across the country • I saw a car accident on my way home from work tonight • Jury Awards Child $1.1 Million in a Harrisburg Brain Injury Medical Negligence Case • Strokes and how iPads can help the victim through the process

Websites are Marketing
• Follow advertising rules (7.2) • Include appropriate information
– Geographic limitations – Limitation on seeking clients – Accurate fee language
• No fee unless recover means no fee or expenses

– Follow rules for all states in which licensed or seeking clients (8.5)

Honesty: Content, Link and Name
• Don’t be misleading (7.1) • Solo – Not plural (7.5)
– i.e. Not – One office? – Not offices of

• Practice areas
– Only list areas actually practice

Proper Use of Firm Name
• Virginia attorney called himself & Associates
– Had no associates

• Listed practice groups that did not exists • Listed non-attorney as attorney • Also engaged in other malfeasance which is what brought his advertising to light • Suspended

Watch for PA Rules
• Specialization – not an expert unless
– Patent – Admiralty – Other approved

• No testimonials from famous people • Keep copies for 2 years
– Screen shots – PDFs

Disclaimers Include
• • • • Not legal advice (informational only) Does not form an attorney/client relationship Confidentiality concerns Geographic limitations

Ethical Concerns for Blogs
• Some states consider blogs marketing
– Pennsylvania has not commented yet – Assume it is marketing for your protection

• Include a proper disclaimer (as with website)

Attorney/Client Relationship (5.5)
• Be careful about answering questions in comments (or on other sites)
– Don’t want to inadvertently form attorney/client relationship – Suggest people call you instead of answering online when appropriate – Do not accidentally practice in states where not licensed

Examples of Blog Problems
• Virginia
– Disciplinary Board asked attorney to put marketing disclaimer on blog – Attorney refused – Disciplinary board found against him – Case is on appeal

Recent Case
• Attorney in Chicago claims Illinois has a corrupt probate system
– Posted on blog, naming individuals – "sleazy world of probate" – "garden variety theft, embezzlement, malpractice and malfeasance by attorneys and the court.“

• Ethics commission is concerned
– “Blog publicly accessible” – “False [or] shows disregard for the truth”

• Hearing Scheduled

Sharing Confidential Information & Insulting the Judge
• Illinois Assistant Public Defender wrote on her blog
– People and cases described were “thinly veiled” – Called a judge “Judge Clueless” – Described a conversation in which a client informed her she was on drugs – Knew client had lied to the court

• Lost her job of 19 years • Suspended in two states

Hard to Find Positive Information Now

• Integrated with Google search results • Helps with location based searching • Crucial for SEO

• Create personal profile • Create business profile • Claim Google Places

Personal Google+ Profile

Business Google+ Profile

Google Places

Keep Track of Your Image – Google Alert

Facebook & LinkedIn
• Facebook
– 1 billion

• LinkedIn – business focused
– 200 million

• Network with
– Potential clients – Other attorneys – Referral sources

• Share information • Attract attention

Facebook Account

LinkedIn Account

Facebook & LinkedIn
• Create a page for your firm
• Becomes a mini-website on Facebook • Useful tool on LinkedIn

– Connect employees to the pages – Encourage followers on both – Provide useful information – Share Blog Posts – Share Interesting information – Engage

Facebook Business

Facebook Business

LinkedIn Page

LinkedIn Page

Purchasing Ads
• • • • Google AdWords Facebook Ads and Promoted Posts LinkedIn Ads Other sites

• Pay per click • Demographics
– Geographical area – Specific information provided by Google+
• Age • Gender • Etc

• Controlled by Keywords

• Uses cookies to follow users around the web • Often pictures on websites • Example
– Search estate planning on Google – Read websites on estate planning – Several hours or days later read an online paper – Paper has ads for estate planning companies or law firms

• Purchase ads on Facebook
– Target by demographics
• Age • Gender • Marital status

– Target by interests

• Pay per click

• Link To
– Facebook page – Website

Facebook Promoted Posts
• Write a post • Promote it
– Costs varies from $5 and up – Increases visibility of post, encourages likes and comments


• Purchase ads on LinkedIn
– Target by
• • • • Job Title Industry Age Location

• Should you friend clients on Facebook?
– Depends on how you use your account – Very personal?
• No

– General?
• Maybe

• Let clients like your firm’s business page instead

Judges Should be Careful Who They Friend
• • • • Florida: Not ok for Judges to friend attorneys Ohio: Ok for Judges to friend attorneys Be aware of your state’s rules Many Judges unwilling to friend attorneys who may ever appear before them
– Probably the wisest course of action

Judges on Facebook
• Judge friends with defendant, didn’t know
– Real life friend with defendant’s father – A lot of negative publicity – Judge recused

• Judge friends with defendant, didn’t know
– Did not know in real life – Refused to recuse

• Judges should be aware of who they friend

Judges on LinkedIn
• Site is more professional, less personal in nature • No sharing of personal information • Ok to connect (in my opinion)

• 140 character micro blogging • 200 million users (76% don’t post)
– A great way to let people get to know you as a person – Share quick bits of information – Re-share what other people post – Link your Facebook, LinkedIn accounts and Blog to Twitter as a way to get more value for your effort

People Like to Watch
• 800 million unique users each month • 4 billion videos viewed each day • Use video to help people see you
– Let’s people connect – Provides a different form of content – Excellent SEO

• Share by embedding on other sites


Share Documents
• Scribd • Slideshare

• Popular site among laypeople for finding attorneys
– 5 million visitors per month – 95% of attorneys listed – 150k attorneys have claimed profiles

• Controversial among attorneys
– Cannot unclaim your listing – Not always clear how ratings are established

• Claim your listing IF
– No disciplinary action – Robust profile

• You can increase your score by
– Completing your profile – Getting attorney endorsements

• Increase findability
– Answer questions (ethically)

• Where are you? • What are you doing? • Not great for clients
– Confidentiality issues

• Good for attorneys
– Speaking on x at y – Networking
• At PBA event for Estate and Elder Law Attorneys

• Facebook • GoWalla • FourSquare

Connect Everything
• Provide links to all of your accounts and your Website everywhere you can • This will provide the maximum opportunity for people to find and research you


Blog Blog Website LinksFacebook

Managing Time
• Tools such as HootSuite help • Automatically connect sites when appropriate
– Connect Facebook to Twitter – Be careful about the reverse
• Twitter has its own language and can be confusing when read off Twitter

HootSuite at Work

How to Behave

Be Aware That Professional Versus Personal Conduct Doesn’t Matter on the Web

Prosecutor on a Personal Crusade Against a Student
• Wrote a blog to attack a student
– “Welcome to ‘Chris Armstrong Watch’. This is a site for concerned University of Michigan alumni, students, and others who oppose the recent election of Chris Armstrong — a RADICAL HOMOSEXUAL ACTIVIST, RACIST, ELITIST, & LIAR — as the new head of student government.”

• Claimed it was personal so irrelevant to his work • Refused to step down

Prosecutor Fired
• His attorney, said his client was merely expressing his free-speech rights • In explaining the firing his ex-employer stated “[he] repeatedly violated office policies, engaged in borderline stalking behavior and inappropriately used state resources”

Tweeting “Jokes”
• Indiana AG Fired over Tweet
– “use live ammunition”

Remember No One Can See or Hear You
• No body language or vocal inflection • Different senses of humor • What is a joke to one person is an insult or a grievous threat to another.

Watch for the Streisand Effect
• Barbara Streisand sued to have an image of her house removed from the Internet
– Resulted in greater publicity and a lot of insults

• Lesson learned?
– Suing rarely works

If You (or a Client) Mess Up
• Apologize (sincerely) • Lay low
– Don’t argue – Don’t try to explain

General Business Concerns
• Encourage firm’s attorneys to use social media • Encourage someone to keep track of all social media for the firm • Have clear policies on social media use

• Make employees understand that they are not allowed to post on behalf of the firm unless it is part of their job • Make it clear that if someone violates client confidentiality he will be punished (up to and including termination of employment)

Prepare for Problems
• Have a plan for responding to problems • Empower someone to respond in an emergency
– Waiting is not an option – Know when not to respond (things are out of control and people are ganging up) – Know when to respond (an individual who is upset)

Final Thoughts
• Don’t be afraid of social media
– It can be a powerful marketing tool – It can be a powerful research tool – Simply be sure to remember that many people will see what you post – Obey the ethical rules

Thank You

Jennifer Ellis Lowenthal & Abrams, PC & Jennifer Ellis, JD

Master your semester with Scribd & The New York Times

Special offer for students: Only $4.99/month.

Master your semester with Scribd & The New York Times

Cancel anytime.