Social Networking in Your Elder Law Practice: Risks & Opportunities

Jennifer Ellis, Esq. Freedman Consulting, Inc.

65+ Has Surpassed 50%

For the Elderly

Social Media has Positives and Negatives: Mainly Positives

• Limit Isolation
– Video/Audio Technology – chat with family – Facebook/Other Sites
• See what family is doing • Meet new friends • Find things to do off line

• Enables home/bed-ridden to communicate • Research
– Items won’t discuss with doctors – Social Services

• Scams
– Easy to prey on elderly

• Burglary risk
– Provide too much information – Burglars can take advantage of
• Knowing elderly home alone • Knowing when elderly are out

• Computer Malware

Mitigate the Risk
• • • • Privacy Settings Careful about what posting Choose friends carefully Updated Malware Protection
– Automatically updates

• Government Website

Ethical Concerns

The Two Rules of Jennifer
1. Rules & laws that apply off-line apply on-line 2. Amount of possible trouble is expanded by the reach of the Internet

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

Apologies are Good
• Best way to deal with such errors of judgment?
– Don’t make them – Apologize (sincerely) – Lay low

The Umbrella of Ethics
• 7.1 Don’t be misleading in communications either on or offline
• 8.x Obligation to “Maintain the Integrity of the Profession”

7.2 Attorney Advertising
• • • • • Copies/Records kept 2 years No celebrity endorsements Fee language restrictions Geographic location disclosures Etc.

What is Advertising?
• • • • • • Ads on Google or Facebook – Yes Website – Yes Blogs? Facebook and Tweets? Does it feel like advertising? It’s the content not the format

• In Virginia attorney disciplined for not including advertising disclaimer and blogging about his cases • Overturned, can blog about his cases as long as “already available on the public record” • Must have appropriate disclaimer • Some argue unique case because his site was “blatant marketing” • Other states have no issue with blogging • Advice – include disclaimer

• Archive website • Screenshots of ads on Google or Facebook • Pdfs of appropriate pages

Firm Name
• One attorney?
– Not & Associates

• One office?
– Not offices of

• Trade names ok
– Not confusing – Not suggest results

8.5 Multi-State Practice
• Comply with rules where:
– Office is located – All attorneys admitted – Seeking clients

• Watch for “real time” communication
– Chat on Facebook?
• Might not be ok

– Email?
• Ok – reveal if advertising

– Friending on Facebook?
• What is your content?

– Ad on Facebook encouraging people to “Like” a business page?
• Fine

7.4 Specialization
• Attorneys in Pennsylvania:
– Do not specialize – Are not experts

• They
– Focus on – Limited to

• Exceptions
– Patent – Admiralty – Actual certifications
• CELA (Certified Elder Law Attorney)

5.5 Unauthorized Practice of Law
• Careful answering questions • Could
– Inadvertently form a client relationship – End up practicing in a state in which not licensed – Have a conflict problem

Include Short Disclaimer On All Pages
• Nothing on this site is to be taken as legal advice. • No communication between FIRM and readers of this site is to be inferred to cause an attorney client relationship. • For more information view the full disclaimer. • The attorneys of FIRM are licensed to practice in Pennsylvania.

Full Disclaimer
• Comports will all requirements in all appropriate states • Reminds that contact through site is not confidential • Does not form attorney client relationship

Contact Form? Require Disclaimer

Avoid Trouble (Unlike These Folks)

Don’t Share Confidential Information
• Shared Confidential information • Insulted judge • Suspended • Page after page of negative search results

Don’t Insult Clients
• Lawyer insulted client on personal blog • Upset client, upset firm, bad PR • Forced to apologize • Numerous negative links in Google search results • Now retired

Be Nice to Judges
• Florida Attorney Wrote Judge was:
– “Evil witch” – “Seemingly mentally ill” – “Clearly unfit for her positions and knows not what it means to be a neutral arbiter”

• Florida Bar Concluded: Attorney guilty of:
– Making false and reckless statements regarding the qualifications of a judge – Engaging in professional conduct that is prejudicial to the administration of Justice

Not Practicing? Doesn’t Matter
• • • • • • • Attorney served as juror Blogged about case Case overturned 45 day suspension $14k legal fees Lost job

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

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

No Private Life
• Will be punished for behavior regardless of whether on a personal or public account or personal or public topic

Prosecutor Fired

• Attacked student for being gay • 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”

Judges Should Be Careful
• Judges
– Friends with defendants – Ex-parte communication on Facebook with attorney – Not allowed to friend attorneys in Florida

Proper Use of Social Media

Social Media Is Very Useful
• Despite the malfeasance of some, social media is very useful
– As a networking tool – As an advertising medium – As a research tool

Keep Track of Your Image
• Set up Google and Yahoo alerts to see when you are mentioned online

Reputation Problems?
• Bury bad information with positive information • Blogs • Press releases • Ask clients to write recommendations on Google, Avvo, LinkedIn, other sites

Brand Yourself and Your Firm
• • • • Consistent message Consistent image Show level of knowledge Engage with your audience

• • • • Best SEO tool Best for showing level of knowledge 1 in 4 people read blogs 74 of top 100 AmLaw firms have blogs
– Some have several

• All attorneys should have completed LinkedIn profiles • 161 million members • Executives from 100% of Fortune 500 companies

• Practicing a while • Robust profile • Never in disciplinary trouble • Remember – Cannot remove Avvo score

• 900 million users • Create a page for your firm • Consider whether you want to share your personal account

• Top 10 most visited sites daily • Easily connects to Facebook
– (and vice versa)

• Excellent way to increase blog presence by sharing titles of posts and links to posts • Good for short bits of information

• 1.1 million daily active users • 10 million active visits per month • Majority female • Visual medium • Link pictures to sites
– Such blog posts

• Show personal side
– Recommended books, movies, recipes

• 100 million people • Not extremely popular for day to day use • Valuable for SEO
– Google integrating Google+ posts and pages with other services including search and local

• Share useful information with appropriate keywords • Both personal account and business page

Fill Out a Personal Google + Profile

• • • • 800 million unique users each month 4 billion videos viewed each day Great SEO value Create videos
– Attorney bios – Explanation of legal issues

• Upload on YouTube
– Use proper title, keywords

• Embed on blog and other locations

Document Sharing – Scribd
• 100 million active users • Upload presentations • Other useful documents • Connect to blog, other social media sites

Connect Everything
• Link everything • Re-use content everywhere by linking and embedding
– Don’t repost – Reposting harms SEO

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



Use Tools to Save Time
• Hootsuite
– Post once – Put everywhere – View several sites in one place – Currently works with Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and some other sites

Thank You

Jennifer Ellis Freedman Consulting, Inc.

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