Category Archives: Law Firms

Microsoft OneNote for Lawyers

I tweeted this out earlier. I would love to get some reaction. I have never been a big user of OneNote but it seems like lawyers could (and should) be using it. This is particularly true as its level of integration with Outlook (and Word) increases. Let me know what you think.

 

Let’s get a discussion going in the comments so that everyone can benefit. Or, if you have some links to articles or other publications, send them to me (via the contact form) and I will add them to the post so that everyone can benefit.

Beginning in 2013, let’s make Social Media, Esq.™ a little more social!

 

Facebook Beacon Litigation Finally Ends? Maybe.

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals recently affirmed the Northern District of California’s approval of the $9.5 million settlement in the Lane, et al. v. Facebook, Inc., et al. litigation. For those who are unfamiliar with the case, the plaintiffs filed a putative class action claiming that Facebook’s Beacon program was causing the publication of private, “outside” web activities on the class members’ personal Facebook pages. As described by Wikipedia:

Beacon was a part of Facebook‘s advertisement system that sent data from external websites to Facebook, for the purpose of allowing targeted advertisements and allowing users to share their activities with their friends. Certain activities on partner sites were published to a user’s News Feed. Beacon was launched on November 6, 2007 with 44 partner websites. The controversial service, which became the target of a class action lawsuit, was shut down in September 2009. Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, said on the Facebook Blog in November 2011 that Beacon was a “mistake”.

On appeal, the issue was “whether the district court abused its discretion in approving the parties’ $9.5 million settlement agreement as “fair, reasonable, and adequate,” either because a Facebook employee sits on the board of the organization distributing cy pres funds or because the settlement amount was too low. In a 2-1 decision, the Court of Appeals concluded:

Ultimately, we find little in Objectors’ opposition to the settlement agreement beyond general dissatisfaction with the outcome. That dissatisfaction may very well be legitimate insofar as Objectors would have acted differently had they assumed the role of class representatives. But while Objectors may vigorously disagree with the class representatives’ decision not to hold out for more than $9.5 million or insist on a particular recipient of cy pres funds, that disagreement does not require a reviewing court to undo the settling parties’ private agreement. The district court properly limited its substantive review of that agreement as necessary to determine that it was “fair, adequate, and free from collusion.”

The trial court’s approval of the settlement was quite controversial. The lawyers took home more than $2 million in fees and the named class plaintiffs received between $1,000 and $10,000 (the total amount paid to the named class plaintiffs was $39,000). The remaining funds from the $9.5 million was earmarked for a new privacy foundation that would be chaired by three individuals chosen by Facebook and class counsel. Although more than 50,000 complained about Beacon, the “class” received nothing from the settlement.

In what could be characterized as a scathing dissent, Judge Kleinfeld concluded:

The majority approves ratification of a class action settlement in which class members get no compensation at all. They do not get one cent. They do not get even an injunction against Facebook doing exactly the same thing to them again. Their purported lawyers get millions of dollars. Facebook gets a bar against any claims any of them might make for breach of their privacy rights. The most we could say for the cy pres award is that in exchange for giving up any claims they may have, the exposed Facebook users get the satisfaction of contributing to a charity to be funded by Facebook, partially controlled by Facebook, and advised by a legal team consisting of Facebook’s counsel and their own purported counsel whom they did not hire and have never met.

Facebook deprived its users of their privacy. And now they are deprived of a remedy.

So, does this end the Beacon litigation? I haven’t heard any comments from appellate counsel but, given the comments–bordering on outrage–in the dissent, I would not be surprised if appellate counsel seeks en banc review. Time will tell (the case was originally filed in August 2008 and it is possible that we will see it continue well into 2013 and possibly beyond).

Lawyers & Judges: Be Careful Who You Friend

An interesting appellate decision from Florida state court came out last week. The issue was whether a judge who was a Facebook friend with the prosecuting attorney should be disqualified because of the “friend” status. Applying a Florida Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee opinion, Florida’s Fourth District Court of Appeal held that the judge should be disqualified under Florida Code of Judicial Conduct Canon 2B (“A judge shall not … convey or permit others to convey the impression that they are in a special position to influence the judge.”)

In Domville v. State, — So.3d —-, 2012 WL 3826764 (Fla. App. 2012), the defendant moved to disqualify the trial court judge because of the judge and the prosecuting attorney were Facebook friends. Id. at *1 (“Petitioner Pierre Domville moved to disqualify the trial judge. The motion was supported by an affidavit averring that the prosecutor handling the case and the trial judge are Facebook ‘friends.’ This relationship caused Domville to believe that the judge could not ‘be fair and impartial.’”). The trial court denied the motion and Domville appealed.

The appellate court reversed the trial court and concluded that “[A] judge’s activity on a social networking site may undermine confidence in the judge’s neutrality. Judges must be vigilant in monitoring their public conduct so as to avoid situations that will compromise the appearance of impartiality.” Id. at *2. And since Domville had “alleged facts that would create in a reasonably prudent person a well-founded fear of not receiving a fair and impartial trial,” id., the appellate court reversed the trial court and disqualified the trial court judge.

I found the opinion interesting because I am “friends” with some judges in my jurisdiction. While those “friendships” were made prior to the judges becoming judges, it does raise an interesting concern. Should lawyers and judges be friends on Facebook? In Florida, the answer appears to be an emphatic no.

It is worth noting that the decision relied heavily on a Florida Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee opinion that concluded:

[T]he Florida Code of Judicial Conduct precludes a judge from both adding lawyers who appear before the judge as “friends” on a social networking site and allowing such lawyers to add the judge as their “friend.” The Committee determined that a judge’s listing of a lawyer as a “friend” on the judge’s social networking page-“[t]o the extent that such identification is available for any other person to view”-would violate Florida Code of Judicial Conduct Canon 2B.

The Committee further noted that Canon 2B is typically violated when the following factors are met:

1. The judge must establish the social networking page.

2. The site must afford the judge the right to accept or reject contacts or “friends” on the judge’s page, or denominate the judge as a “friend” on another member’s page.

3. The identity of the “friends” or contacts selected by the judge, and the judge’s having denominated himself or herself as a “friend” on another’s page must then be communicated to others.

Obviously, accepting a Facebook “friend” invite from a lawyer would trigger all of these factors, making it pretty clear that the practice should be avoided. The decision will have limited precedential effect outside of Florida, particularly where it swings on a state-based ethics opinion. But given that most states have judicial canons that prohibit judges from engaging in acts that may appear to affect their objectivity, I would not be surprised to see this issue raised with similar results in other jurisdictions.

 

Avvocating 2012 – Day 2 Wrap Up

Time to open up Evernote and give you a rundown of all the happenings of Day 2 at the 2012 Avvocating Conference. It’s hard to know where to being. The amount of information that was disseminated today will likely take a while to digest. The quality of speakers and presenters at the conference (sans myself) was nothing other than top notch. I am really impressed with the people that Avvo brought in for this particular conference. So, without further adieu, here are some of my notes from today’s proceedings.

Josh King (@joshuamking) is General Counsel for Avvo. Of all the presenters, I think Josh did the most to assuage concerns that lawyers have about using social media as marketing tools. The key take away from Josh’s presentation was “Attorney advertising rules apply to advertising, not to posts or information about attorneys.” Josh pointed out four areas of potential concern: (1) testimonials; (2) client solicitation; (3) promising results; and (4) bureaucratic requirements. Testimonials are in their early stages and various bar organizations are trying to figure out how to deal with them. Bottom line, you really don’t need to worry about them (unless you have a specific bar rule prohibiting them). But client solicitation was an interesting discussion.

Josh and I spoke after his presentation and I agree with him–the in-person solicitation rules are designed to prevent lawyers from pitching clients on the spot–essentially, situations where the potential client has no choice but to respond. Since us crafty and charismatic lawyers work all sorts of magic, obviously in-person solicitation is problematic because no one can resist us. I agree that bar organizations will have a hard time applying these “in-person” solicitation rules to social media discussions. After all, the potential client can simply stop participating in the conversation. Our wily ways don’t work over the Interwebs. A few other tips from a presentation designed to make lawyers more comfortable with social media and the review process:

  • State bars can only regulate commercial speech. Definition of commercial speech: “that which does not more than propose a commercial transaction.” Even then, the regulation on commercial speech must be narrowly tailored and advance a government interest.
  • Don’t overstate your qualifications. Don’t lie. If you are going to talk about your cases, do it in a way that does not imply future results.
  • Always be professional.

Follow these tips and it is unlikely that you will ever have any problem with your local bar. If you do, call Josh (and he’ll solve it haha). Always remember that clients can say whatever they want–a client testimonial is not an advertisement.

Sachia Bhatia (@sachbhat), Director of Product Management at Avvo, discussed four basic things that every Avvo user should do and then identified three new opportunities to take advantage of. First, the four necessities: (1) Keep your profile up to date–there are few things worse than an outdated, stale profile. (2) Solicit reviews from current and past clients–these reviews are important to your Avvo ranking and also have impact in search engine results. (3) Build out your endorsement network. Find attorneys you can legitimately endorse and request legitimate endorsements in return–the “I endorse this lawyer” line simply doesn’t cut it anymore. Endorsements need to be detailed and descriptive. (4) Answer questions to showcase expertise. Again, answering questions on Avvo helps your Avvo score and it also increases your exposure by exponential factors. Not all of us can be level 20 contributors (some of us have to actually bill hours after all–I’m only a level 10 contributor and no, I don’t have an Avvo rating of 10–who can fix that for me?). But answer questions when you can. Subscribe to immediate email updates for questions in your practice areas and your localities so that you can be a first responder. This will be more important as Avvo rolls out some new features.

Sachia also discussed three “new” opportunities that more Avvo lawyers should be using: (1) Avvo on the go–start getting Avvo updates wherever you are (see the discussion above about “immediate” subscriptions to questions); (2) Bring Avvo Home–make sure that all of the work you do on Avvo and other sites, such as answering questions or publishing guides, pushes users back to your Core Web Presence. Use Avvo to help bring your potential clients to your home turf; and (3) Bring answers back to your site. This is something I plan on implementing immediately. When you answer a question on Avvo, publish that question and answer on your own site. Increase your footprint and show the visitors to your homepage the knowledge you have (and hopefully answer some of their questions along the way).

Panel Discussion: Kelly H. Zinser (@kellyzinser), Linda M. Callahan (@DUIAttyCallahan), Peter Gonzalez (linkedin.com/in/peterjgonzales), Rich Sierra (businesslawyer.biz). As was the case yesterday, it was hard to take notes on the panel discussion–to much conversation going back and forth. The panel continued on the theme established by Sachia and discussed how to best use Avvo and how it was working in their respective practices. I hope the panel discussions make their way onto a Avvo / Lawyernomics video post. The information exchanged in the panels was invaluable.

Ari Kaplan (@AriKaplan), President/Owner of Ari Kaplan Advisors. Ari’s presentation was one of my favorites. His creativity in building networks and a working referral base is unmatched. He spent most of his time focusing on how you should be making efforts to help your network increase their personal business and success. For example, Ari scours the web, including sites such as http://www.helpareporterout.com, and then forwards links to those in his network to follow up on. “Self promotion has very little to do with promoting yourself. It really has to do with helping to promote others.” Absolutely brilliant.

He is creating an extremely loyal network by helping his network succeed. His focus is on his connections, not himself. And my personal favorite tip was to do quick video interviews with “important” people as an icebreaker or a way to open that networking door. I was really impressed by this idea. I think it is brilliant. So I went “Ari” on “Ari” and here is the result (it will play upright, I promise):

Thanks for the interview Ari. Hopefully it will be the first of many more. For whatever reason, this really resonated with me. What a great way to build a network, especially with those who otherwise might not give you the time of day. I was so impressed, I got Ari’s book.

Vanessa Fox (@vanessafox) is a search guru. While her presentation was entitled “Marketing in the Age of Google,” it quickly became apparent that the subject de jure was “How do I convince people to hire me.” According to Vanessa, “Search is valuable for figuring out what people really want.” And figuring out what people want is extremely important because these three steps are necessary to convince people to hire you:

  • Know who your audience is.
  • Know where your audience is.
  • Know what your audience wants.

Figure out what your audience is searching for and make sure that you are found there. Speak their language. Enough with the “Environmental Remediation Litigation Specialist.” How about “environmental cleanup lawyer” or some other layman term that might actually get searched. “Remember to talk about things in the same way that your audience talks about them.” Also remember that SEO “is about solving people’s problems.”

Two bits of invaluable advice: (1) Every page of your site is the home page–you never know where a user is going to land so make sure your important information is available on all of your pages; (2) How to rank well in search engines: Have great content that people love.

Mark Kelly (@chair10 / @mkelly7777), President and Founder of Chair 10 Marketing. I am going to be honest here. Mark gave one of the best PPC presentations I have seen (and I have seen a lot). I’ve requested his slides and I am going to do a full post on PPC once I have a chance to distill all that information. If you missed Mark, you missed out. (I was also fortunate to have Mark help critique my “elevator pitch” at the Avvo social hour on Thursday night.) This is one bright, bright guy. A quick tip for now (and plenty to come later): “Make sure your page headings match your PPC or search terms; when someone searches a key phrase, they want to see that key phrase listed in the page’s title so that they know that clicking the link will likely get them the information they want and need.”

Duane Forrester (@duaneforrester / web: http://www.bing.com/webmaster). Look, when your web address is “Bing Webmaster,” I’m pretty sure you are going to have some important things to say. Similar to Mike Blumenthal’s presentation from Day 1, Duane presented explicit details about the Bing algorithm, particularly how Bing includes social media in its search rankings and results. It is too complex for me to describe here but how about some statistics:

  • 1/4 searches deliver successful results.
  • 42% of sessions require refining.
  • 44% of sessions are lasting more than a day.
And look what happens when “social” comes into play:
  • 90% ask family / friends before making a decision.
  • 80% will delay making a decision online.
  • People use friends: 2.5x more of than city guides; 4x more often than online reviews; 10x more than check-in sites.
Parting wisdom from Duane: “90% [of social should be] about others / 10% about me.”
 
Stephen Fairley (@stephenfairley), where to being. He is the founder of the immensely successful Rainmaker Institute and the guy is full (and I mean full) of passion and energy. As @Mark_Britton pointed out, even listening to him might make you tired (haha).
First and foremost, remember “The people run your systems. The systems run your law firm.” Get systems in place, teach people how to use them and let the systems run the show.
 
Stephen offered up so much valuable information, I’m just going to cut and paste it from my notes. He didn’t mince any words; you’ll get the gist of it from the following:
Lead Generation
  • 2nd most expensive area in your law firm (after payroll).
  • Never ending process.
  • Need to continually produce more and more leads.
First Rule of Marketing: You Are Not Your Client:
  • #1 reason you’re not getting more referrals is lack of your clients’ education. Failed to educate them what a good referral looks like.
    • Explain why you value and depend on referrals.
    • Explain what a great referral looks like.
    • Explain how to make a referral to your office.
      • Email?
      • Phone?
      • Lunch appointment?
    • Explain how are you going to treat the referral.
    • Explain what to tell referrals about you and your firm
    • Explain what information they [your clients] can give:
      • Business card
      • White paper, special report, etc.
  • #2 reason you’re not getting more referrals is lack of client communication.
    • One tip (very cost effective): newsletter.
      • Keeps you connected
      • Builds credibility
      • Adds fresh content to your website
      • Helps cross-market your services
      • Generates more referrals
      • Works 24/7
      • Promote website and blog.
Evaluate CPL (Cost per Lead) versus CPC (Cost per Client):

CPL (Cost Per Lead)

  • How many leads are produced in a given time frame.
  • How much money did the firm invest in marketing during the same time frame?
  • Divide $$$ by # needs.
  • Compare month v. quarter v. annual
  • Running average
(CPC) (Cost Per Client)
  • How many clients retained during that time period.
  • How much money did you invest in marketing during the same time frame.
  • Divide $$$ by # clients.
  • Compare month v. quarter v. annual
  • Establishing a running average.

How much is each of your clients worth? Does the worth of your client justify the amount of money you are spending on obtaining leads that actually turn into clients? Although there is much, much more to Stephen’s presentations (including a multi-day seminar put on by The Rainmaker Institute), here are some final parting thoughts on lead conversion:

Five stages of conversion:

  • Number of leads in the top of the funnel.
  • How many leads turn into appointments.
  • How many appointments actually show up.
  • Number of appointments sign up at the IC.
  • Number of appointments who sign up later.
Find the areas in those five steps that are failing and fix them. Now. It will lead to immediate success.
 
Mark Britton (@Mark_Britton) and Co. Definitely one of my favor parts of Avvocating. 20 cool things in 20 minutes. (It was nice to see that I am already using a lot of the “cool” things that Mark and his cohort identified). For those who missed it, here is the list:
 
  • Cloud Drives – Dropbox, Skydrive, GoogleDrive, Box
  • Ultrabook – Samsung Series 9
  • iAnnotate App
  • Tripit.com – consolidate itineraries into one.
  • Uber
  • Dragon Dictation
  • Bloomberg Law
  • Pico Projector – small, battery powered projector
  • Kindle Fire
  • Lumosity.com
  • Instapaper App
  • ithoughts App (mind-mapping app)
  • fastcase (legal research)
  • Ruby Receptionists
  • Square
  • Evernote
  • Penultimate App
  • Unbounce.com
  • Rocket Matter / Clio
  • Jelly Fish Art
If you want to know what each of these tools does, go check it out. The creators will be much more capable than I at explaining the value of their products. Personally, I’m checking out the Jelly Fish Art first.
 
And that’s a wrap on 2012 Avvocating Day 2. Once again, I was overly impressed by the speakers, particularly Ari Kaplan.
 
Look for a post here (and likely on Avvo’s Lawyernomics Blog) covering what I learned at Avvocating and why I think it is important.
 
Great event. Great speakers. Great organization. Thanks to @MeganOlendorf and her entire team for putting on such a great conference. Megan, send me the names of your crew so I can give them their proper credit and due respect (before I post the video of all of you jumping for your “celebratory” this-is-over picture–yeah, I got that on video).
 

LexBlog / LXBN TV Interview Regarding Avvocating

Here is a brief interview I did in anticipation of Avvo’s 2012 Avvocating Conference, which is coming up next week. I look pretty goofy on camera:

My thanks to Colin O’Keefe of LexBlog / LXBN TV for conducting the interview. I am looking forward to the conference and hope to see some of my readers there.