Three Factors that Make the Case for Lawyers Using Social Media

In a recent article in Law Technology News, there is a discussion about social media usage among law firm associates. As is usually the case when technology moves forward, there are those who embrace it and those who do not.

No surprise here that lawyers have been more reticent as a group to embrace the use of the latest technology than others. But times seem to be a-changing, and by 2014, investing in social media will no longer be a luxury – it will be a necessity, according to a recent Forbes article.

Glen Gilmore, a New-Jersey-based solo practitioner and social media expert (ranked number 15 on Forbes’ list of social media influencers), found it surprising that only one-third of mid-level associates are “leveraging social media [because] the failure [of] law firms to ‘get’ social… [it] is a terrible disservice to their clients, most of whom are using social media for personal and business purposes.”

What are the factors causing lawyers to participate in social media networks? My list would include: more personal usage, seeing other lawyers surpass them in knowledge and use of social media, client demand and the ability to bill their time, and the ease of research and networkability. I’ve elaborated on these points here:

  • More personal usage: I suggest that the personal usage of social media is one of the greatest drivers of whether a lawyer uses social media in a professional environment. In much the same way as some lawyers who refuse to use computers and prefer to handwrite or dictate their communications, the ones who do not use social media in their personal lives tend not to use it in their professional lives. The inverse is also true. Lawyers should start using it on a personal level, and as they build their network it will be less intimidating to use it on a professional level.
  • Competition and client demand: This is also a factor because you don’t want to be seen as uninformed or behind the times by your peers or clients. More clients are now using social media and expect their lawyers to be savvy with its usage. Of course, having the ability to show value and bill for the activity is also a driver. If you can show yourself to be more efficient, quicker to do the research, and more responsive to your clients, then you will find that social media might be a great use of your time. LinkedIn and Twitter are especially useful networks in this situation.
  • Ease of research and ‘networkability’: Finding articles of interest, doing research, connecting with other professionals or thought leaders: you no longer have to wait for good information or spend hours searching for usable content. Individuals can now publish research, commentary, and news or updates seconds after it is written. Some of the most experienced lawyers and top experts in the legal services industry are providing valuable information every day – all day – for free through social media. New client relationships are being formed and thought leaders are emerging, and it’s all at our fingertips. Even if you don’t “follow” a particular person, there is someone you do follow who will re-link, re-tweet or otherwise make you aware of the good content. As you build relationships with people online, you will begin to see who is providing timely and valuable content and which information is worth reading.

What is deterring you from joining in the conversation? When used correctly, social media will sharpen your networking skills, heighten your awareness of emerging trends, and help develop you or your firm as a prominent thought leader in the legal industry.

Things are happening online, and the speed of the internet is picking up. Better get on board.

Video Interview: Discussing the role of social media in litigation with LXBN TV

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Following up on the post I wrote about social media in 21st century litigation, I had the opportunity to speak with Colin O'Keefe of LXBN on the matter. In the interview I discussed how social media evidence is becoming more prevalent in corporate litigation and offered my thoughts on how companies can prepare for it. 

An Aerial View of the Association of Certified E-Discovery Specialists

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The third annual Association of Certified E-Discovery Specialists (ACEDS) Conference was held again this year at the Westin Diplomat in Hollywood, Fla. We had great lodgings for sure, but they did not order the warm weather in so-called sunny Florida. Next year’s conference will be moved to May in order to compensate for this unruly weather. I guess I can’t complain too much; there are colder places in February/March, especially this year.

The gathering seemed to be a bit smaller than last year, but it was a really good group of professionals. There were several good sessions in addition to lots of opportunities to mingle and meet everyone. The information presented focused on a number of areas but a lot of them could be labeled within technology assisted review (TAR), social media and various ‘best practices’ within the industry.

It seems everyone is starting to dabble in TAR by various names (computer-assisted, technology-assisted, predictive coding, etc.). Much of the discussion went beyond simply being comfortable with the subject matter but included discussions on how to properly validate the process, workflow and output to make sure to achieve your goals and benchmarks.

The use of social media in litigation has not become as big as it was originally projected to be in 2013. However, its presence in cases continues to grow. Tweets, Facebook pages and many other networks are more routinely being collected and produced in litigation than ever before. We can only imagine that this will increase over time. We were told, for example, that instant messaging is the norm for business communications in some Asian countries instead of email. It’s certainly something we’ve been anticipating for a couple of years here in the states and that our technology partners are well prepared for.

The ‘best practices’ within the industry sessions included the following: dealing with data privacy issues of the EU, preventing malpractice or having ethical issues overtake you, and following a process to meet your budget, review and production objectives. There it is again: Success always comes from having a process and following it. As we always tell clients, it’s the project manager’s responsibility to ensure there is a process that is documented, defensible and ultimately repeatable in a future matter. Here are a few quick hits on the good, the ‘OK’ and the bad of the conference:

The good: It was a gathering of practitioners of e-discovery, folks who actually do this day in and day out. Lawyers, consultants, paralegals, IT professionals and technology vendors provided a good mix. It was refreshing to hear war stories from those who deal in process and who want to perfect the best practices of a growing industry. While the conference overdid the ‘experts’ language a bit, it really was a good group of professionals who work exclusively in this industry that had a lot to share on how best to accomplish goals. In the end, process always wins out. It’s best for clients, budgets, meeting deadlines and your own sanity.

The ‘OK’: While the topics were timely, the presentations this year seemed a bit elementary. There were too many presenters on each panel and not enough variety of speakers from one panel to the next (seemingly lots of folks did multiple panels). Variety is good for the soul. I would encourage the ACEDS team to expand the speaker selection and let each panel have a bit more time to develop its topics and provide more time for Q&A.

The bad: My constant pet peeve: too much time on introductions. For example, the first session didn’t start on time and resulted in the panelists not being able to talk until we were more than 35 minutes into the program. This limited the Q&A time which is often a very helpful part of the conversation. Then again, I’ve been to conferences where this would have been a good thing!

The moral of the story is that it wasn’t perfect. But what conference ever is? I appreciate ACEDS’ attempt at bringing together the best of breed within e-discovery people who are well versed in this field. My philosophy is the more we focus on best practices, the more clients will rely on us to help achieve their goals. All in all, it was a good event filled with useful information and solid connections with other e-discovery specialists.


The Use of Social Media in 21st-Century Litigation

Recently I traveled to Birmingham, Ala., to attend a Symposium titled "The Use of Social Media in 21st-Century Litigation," hosted by the American Journal of Trial Advocacy. It was held in the moot courtroom of the school of law, and was well attended: probably more than 200 attorneys and law students in all.

The Symposium was a precursor to an article that will be published this spring on social media issues in the American Journal of Trial Advocacy. It consisted of two panels and one keynote speaker. The presenters were very knowledgeable and the moderators kept the discussion relevant and at a good pace.

Panel One, “Pretrial and Discovery,” was very practical in its application and instruction. Each speaker was given 10 minutes to present, which was followed by a panel discussion with some Q&A. The panelists included:

  • Judge John L. Carroll, dean and Ethel P. Malugen Professor of Law at Cumberland School of Law
  • Steven C. Bennett, partner at Jones Day (New York)
  • John G. Browning, partner at Lewis Brisbois Bisgaard & Smith (Dallas)
  • T. Roe Frazer III, attorney and managing executive for Digome and Cicayda (Nashville)

Here are some of the nuggets that stuck with me from the session:

  • Frazier noted that three quarters of internet users use social media or blogs every day, every app is social media and “social media is like an uber-diary.”
  • Browning continued along those lines, stating that this ‘diary’ consists of what you’ve been doing online, where you’ve been and where you’re going.
  • Bennett mentioned that “Twitter has over 400 million users per day (2012)” and that “competent representation includes knowing about and pursuing social media.” He cautioned us by stating that “there is a ‘wayback’ machine coming for social media similar to the current internet ‘wayback’ machine and because of this nothing is ever erased.”

Something to consider before posting anything on social media.

The keynote speaker was The Honorable Paul W. Grimm, District Judge for the United States District Court for the District of Maryland. His talk and his paper were focused on authenticating social media at trial. He stated that “social media shows state of mind and authenticating social media gives practitioners the most difficulty.” His talk was both informative and entertaining. Attendees could tell he was looking for a case where he could expound on the steps necessary to authenticate social media.

The second panel was moderated by The Honorable John E. Ott, chief magistrate judge, United States Northern District of Alabama, and the following panelists:

  • Dr. Cathy Parker, professor of journalism and mass communication, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
  • Eric P. Robinson, professor at City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism
  • J. Paul Zimmerman, attorney at Christian & Small (Birmingham, AL)

Panel Two was entitled “Issues at Trial.” These issues related to First Amendment rights to know what’s going on in the courtroom versus the use of social media. The discussion covered the use of social media by journalists, the public, the jury, the lawyers (voir dire) and even the Judge. The topics ranged from the annoyance of hearing someone typing on a laptop, to the invasion of privacy of jurors, to whether you had to notify someone that you were investigating them via social media. It ended with whether it’s appropriate or not for a juror to friend the Judge on Facebook.

I’ve presented on this subject several times myself, and our discovery teams are seeing more and more of it with each passing review. But as this panel reminded me, there’s no such thing as being “up to speed” on social media – the ways people interact and communicate keep changing, and there are always new vendors and tools that are adjusting to deal with these platforms.

In many ways it’s a nightmare for our clients to manage and regulate, so to speak … but it’s not going away, that’s a certainty. Events like these are a great way to hear how others deal with these challenges and where they anticipate issues down the road.

Each of the panelists and the keynote speaker wrote articles that will be published this spring in the American Journal of Trial Advocacy. This would make a good addition to your law library.

No Better Place Than Florida For A Little E-Discovery

Well, the ACEDS 2011 (Association of Certified E-Discovery Specialists®) inaugural annual conference is over. Beyond our own Discovery Symposium (I’m admittedly biased), for my money it was one of the best, most practical e-discovery conferences I have ever attended. And the venue: wow! Hollywood, Fl., in March sure beats New York or Washington in winter (no offense. I’m just saying….)We love talking e-discovery, especially here.

The schedule included a wide range of topics: social media and cloud computing, the inner workings of how a computer saves information, data mapping, and ethical considerations in e-discovery. Unlike other conferences I’ve attended, this one kept me awake for the most part with a fast-paced program and diverse speaker list.

Sessions were tightly controlled and methodical. The panels were three or four individuals with slightly different topics or emphases and each speaker was given eight or nine minutes to talk. This was followed by both orchestrated (pre-planned) questions in addition to audience participation.

The speakers themselves were a good mix of attorneys, litigation support and IT professionals each coming from and speaking to their unique perspective. The speakers acted like they wanted to be there (which you cannot always take for granted.) They were not solely focused on case law or an academic approach to e-discovery but each session was very practical, current and relevant. It’s also worth mentioning that the moderators did an excellent job of not allowing any one speaker or audience member to dominate the time.

One area for improvement for next year is to spend less time in the introductions of each of the speakers. Some sessions took 20 minutes or more to get going. We have the bios in the materials; no need for reading me their résumé. I also would have liked to have had a better sense of who was in the audience (attorneys, litigation support and IT professionals.)

While I certainly learned many things, my biggest takeaway from the event was confirmation that our team here at Counsel On Call is doing the right things, looking at the right issues and is, in fact, ahead of the curve on many of these topics. The world of e-discovery changes daily, it seems, and we are constantly making efforts to ensure that we don’t lose sight of the bigger picture while stuck in the weeds. Going to events such as ACEDS is very helpful to gain that perspective and hear from people working on many of the same issues as we are.

I hope to be at the Second Annual ACEDS conference in March 2012. Check out ACEDS on-line and on Twitter or at the conference hastag. I also hope to continue the dialogue with some of my new Twitter friends now that we’re each back at our desks (follow me here).

Speaking of being back at home, leaving the conference was difficult. Ft. Lauderdale was 78 degrees compared to Nashville’s brisk 40 degrees. Welcome back to reality.