Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Social Networking - Marketing Boon, Malpractice Nightmare or Simple Boondoggle

The recruiting manager has created a firm FaceBook site. The marketing director is encouraging all the lawyers to join LinkedIn. The firm's general counsel is freaking out over the possible ethic violations and malpractice possibilities. The older lawyers simply aren't sure what to do. The younger lawyers are wondering what all the hoopla is about. We explore social and business networking, the potential problems and rewards and what you can do about it.

Speaker: Jeffrey Brandt, Chief Information Officer and Chief Knowledge Officer at Crowell + Moring LLP

My Notes:

Jeff started off with definitions of social networking and a long list of web 2.0 sites.

He got focused on this areas because of overly exuberant people at his prior firm. Nobody talked to the risk management people to talk about the ethical and bar regulations that apply to lawyers.

Jeff is a big fan of LinkedIn (His profile: Jeffrey Brandt).  He also uses Plaxo (although much less so), Twitter (but he is not sure what it is all about),  and Facebook (but is seriously lacking friends).

Facebook and MySpace are for kids. Except that there are 100 million + user of Facebook and it is the fourth most trafficked site on the internet. All of them cannot be kids

LinkedIn is a fad.  Of the Fortune 500 companies, 499 have director-level profiles in LinkedIn. Barack Obama used it to extend his campaign.  In looking at LinkedIn, for many law firms, the number of profiles has doubled over the last year. If it is fad, it is a powerful one.

Second Life. Sun and Intel hold meetings in Second Life. Companies have set up storefonts in Second Life.

Less than 10% of people on the ILTA listserv have a formal or informal policy on social networks.

Jeff noticed that there were problems with some of the profile information for attorneys in LinkedIn. Marketing had pushed it to raise the personal profile of the attorney and to raise the profile of the firm. It also works as a "who knows who." It is a great way to address alumni networking and classmate networking.  It is a great information update tool.

Facebook has a lot of potential for recruiting. The recent college graduate crowd uses Facebook a lot.

Malpractice Nightmare?

You can inadvertently create an attorney-client relationship? Absolutely! LinkedIn Answers is particularly problematic. The big problem is that these web-based answers last forever. So there is a permanent record of the legal advice that you give. It is okay to say give me a call.

Social network profiles need to be in compliance with local bar rules and ethical requirements. Recommendations and specialties can be particularly problematic. Of course they must also be truthful.

The problem is that firms are not addressing the use of these sites. Blocking them is useless. Your employees will still access the sites outside of the workplace. If they say they work at the firm, the conduct of that person on the internet will get attributed to the company.

Law firm management need to wake up and pay attention to these issues. Social networks are here to stay and are to be avoided at the firm's risk. Well established procedures and policies can help manage and reduce risk.

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